Stories of Success, Stories of Hope

I feel it is necessary to share the stories of the children I advocate for. Through art, they found their voice and the courage to tell their story. Below, are a few of my favorite stories and thank you letters from children who have gone through a Free Arts MN mentoring program. These programs are more than just an arts and crafts class; they are a respite and place of freedom to express inner thoughts and emotions.

Here are two great links to videos where kids tell us how
they feel about Free Arts programming.

My Story…

Free Arts Is…

Thank You Poem
“Free Arts has been more than just a group of volunteers,
It's a movement, a esteem builder and a learning tool all in one.
The people of Free Arts has taught us lessons that will help carry us through a life time, and that is to believe, believe in your self and the power to move others through art.
We also learned that art doesn't just happen with a pencil and pen but it really starts from within.
Art is a healer for the mind, body and soul,
Free Arts helps us recognize talents that we thought could never show.
From dancing, singing, putting on plays to drawing, writing and learning about artists that made the way.
Free Arts helped us find something we can never forget,
Talent and with that all we can do is win.
Thanks Free Arts, from us to you here’s an art form we learned from you.”

Charlie, Age 4
Four-year-old Charlie was worthless. At least that’s what his mother would tell him as she slapped the small boy across the face or punched him in the chest. Why would the young boy think otherwise? Charlie was left at home alone all day only to be greeted by his drunken mother's abuse at night. He never knew what a loving adult relationship felt like.

When Charlie was finally removed from his mother’s custody and introduced to Free Arts Minnesota, he would flinch anytime a volunteer would raise his or her hand. It was Free Arts Minnesota volunteers who reached out to Charlie, teaching him that not every adult wanted to hurt him. By the end of his first year with Free Arts Minnesota, it was Charlie
who was reaching out, giving all the volunteers he had grown to love good-bye hugs.

Tia, Age 18
"...I think that Free Arts is an amazing program. It has helped me and changed my life, and I have witnessed it do the same for my peers. It is a great way for me to connect with my peers when we all work on a project together.
Some of them struggle with projects, others dive right in, but almost everyone creates something every time. I don’t know what my day treatment or my life would look like without my involvement in Free Arts.
There are many reasons why Free Arts is great. One reason is that I know there are other kids like me who do not have the resources or support they need to create art.
There are also kids who have trouble expressing themselves, and Free Arts teaches them to do that. Finally, Free Arts is great because it is made almost entirely of volunteers.
It is good to know that they choose to spend their time with us every week.
It is good to know that someone thinks we are worth their time, and that they want to share their passion with us.
I know that this program has a deeply profound effect on all those involved.
I like to think it is a necessary part of our community. I believe that art is an important part of life, and whether or not someone loves art, it is still important to experience it. Free Arts helps bring art to those who may not have had the opportunity to make it before.
I am forever grateful to Free Arts for reigniting my love of art. I think, and hope, that other children get to experience everything I have with Free Arts."

Terron Age 10
By the time Terron reached his 10th birthday, he had already spent three months in a psychiatric hospital. His cocaine-addicted mother routinely exposed him and his four siblings to abuse at the hands of other drug addicts, often locking Terron in a closet for hours while his brothers and sisters were beaten. Even after Terron was removed from his mother’s custody, therapy alone was not enough to help him deal with his feelings.

It was the Free Arts Minnesota program and volunteers that helped Terron find a new way to express himself. His drawings were his escape and allowed Terron to channel his feelings into something other than hurting himself. When asked what he liked about Free Arts Minnesota, Terron replied, “It’s a secret place… where you can go and think about anything and everything or nothing.”

Evans, Age 9
I think about my mom and sister.  Beautiful like this flower.
I think about what I want.  I want to create robots.
I want my own room. I want to get better at math.
I think about what I need.  I need a family.
I think about what I fear.  I fear heights.  A little bit.
I think about what I wish for.  I wish I had a family.  I wish I was a professional soccer player.  I wish to have a good paying job.
I think about what I hope for.  I hope to find a good family.
I think about what I expect.   I expect to have a good family that loves me.
I think about what I love.  I love my mom and candy.

Well, I think we can all agree, candy is great… but these poems give children a sense of themselves and an opportunity to think abut what they want out of life. In school, kids are constantly being crammed full of memorized facts, numbers and information. We need to be able to provide them with a chance to think their own thoughts and ideas. Art can do this. Children who have been through traumatic situations can greatly benefit with the programs provided by Free Arts Minnesota and their mentors and they help foster emotional growth, safe adult relationships, great self-awareness and self-esteem.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
-Frederick Douglas


Krista Wanous
Miss International 2012


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