The impact of the Art Expression program can be best demonstrated through one of our students. Eliot, whose parents have allowed us to use his story, had recently transferred into the school district from a local private school. School counselors observed Eliot on the playground and noted that he seemed to be a very shy child, and also displayed signs of depression. One counselor remarked that it seemed as though “Eliot was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.” Counselor’s attempts to speak with him were unsuccessful; he was reserved in nature, and consistently reassured them that “everything was fine”. Counselors recommended that Eliot participate in the Art Expression program.
One of the early directives during the session involved the creation of a self-expressive “family crest.” Using any artistic medium provided, the students were to create a crest atop a corrugated cardboard base. Eliot created a pizza. The art therapist was surprised to see such a unique “family crest”. When asked why he had created the pizza as a crest, Eliot responded: “I made a pizza because my dad has a brain tumor, and my mom has to work two jobs, and I have to cook dinner. I’m not a very good cook, but I make great pizza.” The school counselors then understood why Eliot seemed like a child with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Art Expression Inc. works closely with school district support staff to help students. Understanding that sometimes schools are unable to create an atmosphere where students are comfortable expressing their inner selves, the Art Expression afterschool program works to provide this much-needed atmosphere within the school setting.
Art Expression has four main goals and objectives, which we aspire to achieve in each session, in every classroom. Firstly, Art Expression strives to increase self-esteem and creative self-expression, which can be demonstrated by positive statements about self and others. We also encourage the development and enhancement of social skills through group participation. Art Expression teaches the improvement of problem-solving strategies to reach an appropriate resolution. Moreover, we strive to improve frustration tolerance, as evidenced by participants’ ability to apply problem-solving skills. Lastly, Art Expression Inc. empowers students with the social skills necessary to defeat bullying. This is a unique program. Art therapy is not performed during the sessions but some of the components of art therapy are used to develop positive outcomes for the students. The art itself serves as the conduit for improved communication between students, peers, staff, and parents.
Art Expression is currently conducting classes in three Pittsburgh area school districts (Mt. Lebanon, Keystone Oaks, and South Allegheny). To date, we have served over 2,000 students just like Eliot. Art Expression Inc. is currently working with other local organizations such as ACH Clear Pathways, and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund to partner with and benefit their children. We have recently been selected as a model K-12 program by the American Art Therapy Association and the American Association of School Administrators. Art Expression has collaborated with these organizations in order to develop an Art Therapy Tool Kit, which has been made available to 13,000 school districts across the nation. Moreover, our partnership with Creative Reuse Pittsburgh allows us to provide inexpensive, recycled “found objects” from which students are able to create art while learning about the environment. This partnership was forged with our new initiative, Project Eco-smArt, funded by the Grable and Benedum Foundations’ STEAM Grant. We continue to expand our programming while remaining a free resource to it’s recipients. Furthermore, Art Expression has received various other awards and recognition on both state and national levels. We also conduct several presentations and workshops during state, national and international conferences annually in order to further our impact on the academic community.
Funding is needed to continue reaching children like Eliot in our school communities. We would like to partner with like-minded organizations to expand our programming in order to reach as many children as possible, children who may not have access to quality, inclusive programming, free of charge. Each session costs approximately $1,500, and we currently operate over 25 sessions each year. Presently, we are also looking for Board members, art therapists, corporate sponsors, volunteers, and individual donors.
Our wish list includes the following:
Colorations Construction Paper Smart Pack - 600 sheets
Crayola Color Smart Washable Marker Class pack
Colorations Washable Glue Sticks Set of 30
Colorations Liquid Watercolor Paints, 8oz set of 18
Butcher Paper Rolls, 36” 40lb roll
Crayola Colored Pencils Class pack, set of 240
Adhesive back jewels, buttons, decorative feathers, stickers etc. 1000 pieces
Clay Modeling Tools
Model Magic Modeling Clay