Awakening Creativity at the Museum of KIPP Art

Awakening Creativity at the Museum of KIPP Art

“I remember those great sunny after-school days, productive weekends, and all the months of preparation spent with my peers and teacher. We were learning different forms of art and creating unique art pieces for the benefit of our community while building long-lasting friendships,” said Jessica Magaña, KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory alumna, when reminiscing about participating in the first Museum of KIPP Art (MOKA), a now annual event at KIPP SoCal Public Schools. 

MOKA is a true celebration of the visual, digital, and performing arts, in its 15th year of supporting our whole-child approach to education! Each year, student artists in grades TK-8 from across our region create, display and discuss their artwork at an epic, beloved art showcase and auction event. 

The Making of MOKA

You may be wondering, “where did it all start?” Well, in 2006, with only a ream of computer paper and some pencils, Andy Hahn, Art Teacher at KIPP LA Prep, was founding the school’s art program. “I knew that the funding wasn’t going to be enough to properly start such a program,” said Mr. Hahn. “So, launching an art auction was the only way I knew, at the time, to help fund and start the art program that I envisioned.” 

Fun Fact: The name MOKA came from Mr. Hahn’s love of coffee (mocha), and not just a play on words of the art museum in downtown LA. He wanted something that was high energy and “caffeinated.”

To the surprise of many, the first MOKA drew in over 100 people at a small, local Arts District establishment which at the time was across the street from KIPP LA Prep. “I had help from everywhere and everyone to get this started and actually get going,” noted Hahn. And with all the enthusiasm and support, MOKA was born and it became a signature of what KIPP SoCal is — “KIPP is Community.” Mr. Hahn added, “it was a fun and incredible experience seeing our students showcase their artwork. My main memory was how happy the students were and their great realization that there is so much more out there that they could experience.”

Students are the heart of MOKA,” stressed Hahn. “I knew that our KIPPsters would be talking to people outside of their own world.” For that reason, Hahn created an accompanying curriculum to help them learn social etiquettes and how to navigate an event — everything from how to introduce themselves, shake hands, speak clearer and slower, ways to talk about art with guests, as well as continue an interesting personal conversation.   

In fact, alumna Ms. Magaña, recalled those learnings and mentioned, “my favorite memory of  MOKA was having the opportunity to socialize and network over meaningful conversations with people of diverse backgrounds who were interested in our art. This really empowered us to know that our artwork and abilities mattered!” 

She added, “it was even better to know that I had a KIPP family who believed in us and helped us [students] access the skills and confidence we needed to be a part of the art community and explore different opportunities.” 

With that driving force, this year, we celebrate MOKA’s 15th anniversary of supporting enrichment programs for our KIPPsters across our public schools. In honor of this milestone, let's look at our history of MOKA themes:

2006-2007 ONE (Apollo 11/Blast off)
2007-2008  Metamorphosis
2008-2009 Envision (seeing things in new ways)
2009-2010 Wabi-Sabi Aesthetics
2010-2011 Illuminate
2011-2012 Boundless
2012-2013 Dream
2013-2014 Home
2014-2015 Time (Alice in Wonderland)
2015-2016 Journey (Wizrd of Oz)
2016-2017 Everlasting (Willy Wonka)
2017-2018 Acceptance (Beetlejuice)
2018-2019 Pop Art
2019-2020 Making the Impossible a Reality
2020-2021 Awakening (Dadaism)

Despite the initial challenges of launching an ambitious art program, MOKA was and continues to be fueled by the support of students, alumni, team, community members, and donors. “The growth over these past 15 years is really exciting, because it means that the expression of our students is being magnified and our community can see and feel the arts that our students create,” stated Angella Martinez, former KIPP LA Prep School Leader and today’s CEO in Residence at KIPP SoCal Public Schools. She added, “there are students that need the arts to express themselves and engage in school, and it makes me proud that we [KIPP SoCal] are a firm believer and supporter of the arts.”

“Over the years, this annual event has completely created a greater interest in the arts. The greatest development that I have seen in students is their bolstering of self-confidence and self-worth,” shared Mr. Hahn. “I know that a lot of my students will not go on to become [professional] 'artists' in their adulthood. But, I know that it has expanded their minds to think more creatively, problem solve with assurance and have become more confident in expressing themselves,” he added. 

As a matter of fact, there are a number of alumni that come back to tell Mr. Hahn that in part thanks to their MOKA experience they landed the interview, they got the job, they are now starting their own business, or they’ve dedicated their time to work in the arts field.

Check out what our alumna Jessica Magaña, who is now a teacher at KIPP LA Prep, had to say: “MOKA helped me use my voice and my art as a tool for change. It allowed me to open doors through communication and through self-advocacy. It allowed me to value myself and the work that I was creating. Being a part of MOKA and the Art Alley [the group of students creating art for the event], overall taught me the power of community.”

I will always appreciate the endless hours that Mr. Hahn dedicated to fostering an inclusive and safe space where we, as students, could immerse ourselves into the art we were creating,” Magaña expressed. To get a sense, visit the fan-favorite Mr. Hahn’s Craft Corner and awaken your creativity with a “Painting with Coffee” art tutorial!

Special Messages to our KIPPsters

  • “Whether it's painting, drawing, sculpting, dancing, singing, poetry, etc., express yourself in a way that makes you happy! Give yourself the opportunity to try it.” — Jessica Magaña
  • We cannot wait to learn more about you through your art! You are making an impact. You are making people feel an emotion. You are connecting to them through your expression! Take that as the power you have to make change in the world. Make your point of view known. Show people who you are about and what you care about! — Angella Martinez

We are thrilled to continue our 15-year tradition of celebrating our students’ artwork at the Museum of KIPP Art, an art showcase and auction. With a 2021 theme of Awakening!, sparking a questioning of how things have been done in the past and how things can improve in the future. In the spirit of the Dadaist art movement, which questioned what art is, we posed the question to our students, "what does the future hold?" as they create their artwork.

Join in on the excitement on June 2-4, 2021 and help our students’ voices go beyond our virtual gallery walls! All proceeds benefit a whole-child approach to an enriching education. REGISTER: