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Prince William and wife, Catherine, drop in at Inner-City Arts

July 10, 2011 |  4:50 pm

Ica1

On the final day of their whirlwind Los Angeles tour, Prince William and his wife, Catherine, traveled to the poorest section of the city Sunday morning for a visit to Inner-City Arts, the nonprofit cultural organization serving primarily disadvantaged and homeless youth in the Skid Row area of downtown.

The choice to visit ICA was a nod to Prince William's ongoing interest in the plight of the homeless, a cause that was also close to his mother, Diana. During their visit, which lasted about 1 hour, 10  minutes, the couple toured the facilities, attended art classes and watched a dance performance.

One goal of the visit was to inaugurate a collaboration between ICA and Britain's Centrepoint, the nonprofit homeless organization of which the prince is a patron. The groups said they plan on partnering on various student projects and engaging in staff exchanges.

The royal couple arrived at 11:40 a.m. traveling in a motorcade of three black Chevy Suburbans, a black Range Rover and a police car. They were greeted by six students holding a banner that read "Welcome to Inner-City Arts." Prince William wore a navy blue suit with a maroon tie, and his wife donned an ivory white summer dress with pleated skirt, with a crocheted navy-blue cardigan.

Sunday's agenda was a highly scripted affair that made the most of the couple's limited time. ICA doesn't normally hold classes on Sundays, but students and instructors were on hand to show what a typical day would look like. First on the schedule was a conversation with 19-year-old Kenneth Chancey, a studio assistant who raised himself out of poverty and put himself on the track for college.

Ica2 The couple then attended an art class where fifth-graders were painting mandalas, a circular type of artwork that is traditional to various Asian cultures. Prince William and his wife participated in the creative process by sitting at easels to paint their own mandalas.

At one point, Catherine turned to her husband and said, "William, do you know what you're doing? Start from the center." After a few moments, he turned back to his wife and said, "Catherine, what are you supposed to do?" She laughed and instructed him again.

Next was a ceramics class where the couple assisted students in the making of a giant clay tortoise. During the class, the couple placed their hands in a set of clay squares and signed them. They each imprinted a right and a left hand, and they did a hand together as well.

The final stop was at ICA's performing-arts theater for a dance production that included a hip-hop-infused number followed by a piece that addressed homelessness.

The couple left at 12:50 p.m., taking with them two miniature ceramic tortoises created for them the week before.

Outside, Prince William and his wife were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of around 150 who had lined up along 7th Street across from ICA. Some of Skid Row's regular residents didn't know what all the hoopla was about. Dana Myles, a transient who said he has lived in Skid Row on and off for 10 years, said he had no idea that the royals were coming that morning. He said the visit was good for the neighborhood because "it shows that they care."

Launched in 1989, ICA is an arts-education center that serves mostly poor students from around Southern California. The nonprofit organization collaborates with local schools to bring in students for periodic instruction in the arts. Among the subjects taught are animation, ceramics, dance, drama and music.

The campus sits on an approximately 1-acre site on the edge of Skid Row in downtown L.A. Architect Michael Maltzan worked on the first phase of construction, completed in 1995. In 2008, Maltzan finished an $8.5-million expansion of the campus to include a small theater and a library and learning center.

"A lot more people know us today than three weeks ago," said Cynthia Harnisch, the president and CEO of ICA. She said the organization didn't apply or lobby to have Prince William and his wife visit. Rather, she said, they were informed only about 3 1/2 weeks ago that ICA would be part of the royal itinerary.

After their visit to Skid Row, Prince William and his wife traveled across town to Culver City to attend a veterans jobs fair held at Sony studios. They were scheduled to depart LAX to head back to London later in the afternoon.

RELATED:

FULL COVERAGE: The Royal Visit

Photos: The Duke and Duchess in L.A.

Architecture review: Coming clean in the inner city

— David Ng, Alexandra Zavis and pool reports

Photo (top): Prince William and his wife, Catherine, attend an art class at Inner-City Arts. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times.

Photo (bottom): Prince William with a student at Inner-City Arts. Credit: Alex Gallardo / AFP/Getty Images.

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