With the support of my lovely Etsy shoppers and Mama's Day Wkend Art Party guests, I recently made a donation to a brilliant Los Angeles non-profit called Free Arts. After making just that one donation, I've happily opened my mailbox to find multiple letters of appreciation from them. Not generic mail, but true communication.
Inside one envelope was a short essay written by a super strong and amazing twelve-year-old girl describing how scared she was the first time she had to appear in court for a difficult family matter. But the next time she went things were different. She decided to join in on an art project with Free Arts and shares how empowered and brave that creative act made her feel. There is something inherently uplifting about knowing you've made something beautiful that wouldn't have existed without you. You can read Alyssa's story here along with others.
Having benefitted from so many art classes and camps and activities growing up, including many subsidized by organizations like the local parks & rec, I know how important the arts are for kids. I also know they are often one of the first things to be cut from a budget - federal, local, or individual.
But art isn't frivolous and it's not a luxury - not even a little. In one of my favorite TED Talks ever, Bill Strickland talks about how he uses beauty to repair struggling neighborhoods and help kids grow their own self-worth, opening them up to bigger opportunities like going to college. He emphasizes that arts and culture elevate our surroundings and therefore our sense of worth. Yep.
Free Arts clearly helps children develop that sense and they also address one of the biggest drives of all creativity. Though it's a complete myth that good art only comes from pain, it is true that art can help us deal with pain. Visiting a museum, listening to music, watching a movie - they all allow us to take a break from the dark or scary parts of our lives and the world. That's part of the reason I love working with bright colors so much. It's simple, they make us feel good for a moment when things around us feel uncertain. Even more importantly, making art can help us delve into those scary parts and process our feelings in a way that feels safe.
You can see more artwork made by INCREDIBLE children on the Free Arts website.
There are so many effective art programs like this in every city (Able ARTS Work and Venice Arts are also doing amazing things in the LA area!). I'm always on a mission to spread the word and I love discovering new organizations.
Help support the arts! Share an organization you love in the comments