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Child care was labeled essential during the coronavirus pandemic, but preschool teachers, family child care providers, relatives and nannies have long been doing the critical work of helping young kids grow and thrive.Here's what SoCal early care and education really looks like.

Get Outside! See Child Care, Unfiltered In Person

A large outdoor installation near city hall in grandpark.
Follow the footsteps to catch a selection of images on display from Child Care, Unfiltered at Grand Park, near City Hall.
(Chava Sanchez
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What does the world look like through the eyes of those who care for Southern California’s youngest children?

What does child care look like for you now?
  • Share a photo and your story with the hashtag #childcareunfiltered. We may even feature some of your community stories on LAist throughout the summer.

LAist gave cameras to 12 child care providers, educators, and caregivers to document their lives. The result is a collection of photos that give a real, #nofilter take on the wonderful, all-consuming, essential work of child care: from diapers to bills, Big Feelings and snacktime.

The photographs reveal quiet moments that together help create an intimate look at this past year. They show not only the trials and tribulations of 2020, but also the moments of triumph and joy that child care providers and caregivers experienced as they have had to rethink what it means to provide care.

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A behind the scenes look at the LAist team installing photo galleries throughout Southern California.

Explore what it looks like to care for young children during the pandemic. Dive into the photo essays, which discuss who early educators are, how they adapted to the pandemic, how they cope with the challenging economics of the job, their impact on children's lives, and how they care for themselves. View a recording of the virtual eventthat took place on June 17.

And, this summer, get outside and see the photos in person! LAist has collaborated with local organizations and arts institutions to present photo installations at five sites across Southern California.

Installations will open throughout the summer. Please note the dates at each location.

Santa Monica Promenade

Childcare Care Unfiltered Outdoor Gallery
The outdoor gallery in Santa Monica is located on the very north end of the 3rd Street Promenade, facing Wilshire Blvd.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Saturday, June 12 - August 31
3rd Street/Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

Enjoy a walk at the Third Street Promenade. Large photographs will be printed on vinyl and displayed on windows at the north end of the promenade, on Wilshire Boulevard.

This installation explores pandemic education and child care, through in person and distance learning. Santa Monica preschool teacher Brenda Cruz reads to children in masks, who appear to hang on to her every word. Tactile learning is front and center, as 3-year-old granddaughter Mariana examines herself in a mirror while eating and two children are locked in a bear hug.

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The site features photography by Brenda, grandmother Luz Hernández, preschool teacher María Gutierrez, Early Head Start child care provider Ruth Flores and family child care provider Yvonne Cottage.

Other art installations are also up in the area during the month of June for Pride Month. Experience the artwork and then grab a bite nearby at one of the many Downtown Santa Monica eateries.

Evergreen Early Learning Head Start, Compton

Childcare Care Unfiltered Outdoor Gallery
Vinyl banners featuring Child Care, Unfiltered images hang from the gates at Evergreen Early Learning Head Start in Compton.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Saturday, June 12 - August 31
312 S Oleander Avenue, Compton

LAist presents an outdoor installation on the front gates at Crystal Stairs Head Start school in a residential neighborhood in Compton.

The installation features five images from the project in mixed media. A large black and white image of family child care provider Jackie Jackson holding a young boy’s face in her hands welcomes visitors to the site. Vinyl photographs hanging on the gates explore child care and early education at a child’s eye level, from tears to coloring and reading.

The site includes photography by family child care providers Jackie Jackson, Jeanne Yu, and Susana Alonzo.

Childcare Care Unfiltered Outdoor Gallery
Explore a selection of large black and white images outdoors at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton

Saturday, June 26 - Friday, August 13
(Please note that the end date of the exhibit has changed.)
1201 W Malvern Ave, Fullerton

LAist presents Child Care Unfiltered at the Muck! This outdoor installation features large black-and-white photographs mounted on panels in the entrance by the courtyard.

This installation showcases how child care providers and caregivers kept kids safe and worked to preserve childhood joy during the pandemic. Children in panda visors scale a play structure. A grandmother walks her grandson atop a horse in the forest. A parent gets her temperature checked before dropping her children off at preschool. The site includes photography by preschool director Manoja Weerakoon, grandmothers Jane Canseco, Luz Hernández and María Gutierrez, and family child care providers Jeanne Yu, and Yvonne Cottage.

While at the Muck, you can also see paintings by artist Eloy Torrez or stay for an evening of music or painting.

Childcare Care Unfiltered Outdoor Gallery
This large installation at Grand Park is one of several galleries throughout Southern California.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Grand Park, Downtown Los Angeles

Thursday, July 1 - July 31
200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, Block 3

Explore the themes of home and freedom through the eyes of those who care for Southern California’s youngest children in this centerpiece photography installation.

Five years old and younger is an age of tears, rapid growth, and the need for deep trust. To do their work, child care providers and caregivers must develop an intimate sense of home for young children who are just beginning to understand themselves in relation to the world. Large images show child care providers deeply embracing children, facing piles of laundry and cluttered toys on the ground, and reviewing shapes and letters together with children. In a time of uncertainty, child care providers have also created an environment that preserves and uplifts childhood joy. The joy is palpable in the images — children hugging each other, chasing after balloons, dancing.

Explore the images in a playful outdoor gallery that brings a child care space to life. It features works by all 12 photographers.

Follow the footsteps from Civic Center Metro station or Broadway to find Child Care, Unfiltered in the park. While you are there, check out the multiple art installations on view throughout the park during the month of July.

Cool off at the installation at Lancaster Museum of Art and History after exploring the shops and restaurants on Lancaster Blvd.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Museum of Art and History (MOAH), Lancaster

Thursday, July 8 - September 5
Opening reception Thursday, July 15, 5-8 p.m. RSVP!
665 W Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster

This installation features three large vinyl images on the outside windows of the Museum of Art and History and an exhibit of photographs printed on aluminum inside the classroom. The installation includes works by all 12 photographers.

Join LAist on for the opening reception on Thursday, July 15 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Meet visual journalist Chava Sanchez and engagement producer Stefanie Ritoper as well as Child Care, Unfiltered caregivers/artists. Walk The Blvd and enjoy the outdoor sights and sounds at the farmers’ market.

What questions do you have about early childhood education and development? What do you want to know about kids ages 0-5 and those who care for them in Southern California?
Decades of research indicates early childhood education significantly boosts children’s readiness to learn. Mariana Dale wants families, caregivers and educators to have the information they need to help children 0-5 grow and thrive by identifying what’s working and what’s not in California’s early childhood system.

Updated June 15, 2021 at 8:31 AM PDT
This story originally said the Santa Monica installation would include photography by grandmother Jane Canseco and nanny Sofi Villalpando, however their images are featured at other locations.