The L.A. Cultural Exchange Story



I’m Lisa Banconi, the founder of L.A. Cultural Exchange. I created this arts-focused program to help young performing and visual artists not only train with the top in their field, but also to live in Los Angeles and be well taken care of. It was the only arts-focused high school exchange program in L.A. and the only one to accept U.S. students. So we started as an exchange program but then added summer dance programs to help dancers have the L.A. experience who otherwise could not do a semester or academic year exchange.  Then Covid happened. We have not restarted our high school semester/academic year programs because the high schools have priced their student tuition out of reach of the majority of students for the quality of education offered. This goes against the original idea of student exchanges – making the world accessible to all.  So, we have decided to take what we love – DANCE – and create the 18+ L.A. Dancer monthly program and build a dance dorm. This new program will have the same love, care, training and fun as our former programs. We will add new programs when Covid is more under control.

How It All Began

Many people ask why I focus only on the arts. Well, my answer is always the same: “We should do what we love because that’s what we know. There were many paths, turns and bumps that led to the creation of the young artists program. So here’s the story of how L.A. Cultural Exchange came to be…

I did my “exchange” as an adult, a college graduate, in beautiful Rome and then Barcelona. I just took a chance and went there. Even without a plan I met wonderful people along the way who helped guide me and show me what wonderful places Italy and Spain are. This experience stayed with me and was one of the reasons I began our small, arts-focused exchange program. After three and a half wonderful years living and working in the E.U., I returned to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. My mother and I decided to combine our talents, education and background and start an arts marketing firm together.  We are an awesome team! We started in the NoHo Arts District where we own and operate the official website for the city arts district – www.nohoartsdistrict.com.  Through our years working with the 20 professional theatres, dance studios, galleries, recording studios and arts businesses in the NoHo Arts District, we have seen many young artists come to L.A. to make it in the industry. We saw many fail, not because they didn’t have talent but because they had no help to navigate and understand the arts world. We work in this world daily. We know it and love it! But the idea to start the arts exchange program came about in 2010 when I hosted a brilliant German high school student.  I continued to host international students, including my first student’s uber witty brother, because it’s our job to show the rest of the world that Los Angeles is a fantastic, open, caring and accepting city. During this time I saw many talented students not get the guidance and training they needed in their art field. I thought that the under 18 age group was the most vulnerable and needed the most help. My family company works in the arts on a daily basis for the last two decades, L.A. is our city, and we want to make sure our young performing and visual artists are taken care of, just how I was taken care of while living overseas. So that is how L.A. Cultural Exchange was born!

Dance in L.A.! -
Los Angeles DANCE Programs