Today is my husband’s birthday. While Brent has many talents, one that stands out is his talent to draw. He frequently entertains our children at a restaurant by drawing with them. So, today, in honor of his birthday, I am writing about a program that pairs artistic adults with kids to use the power of creativity to change their lives.
Art Buddies was founded by Sue Crolick, a former Art Director. In 1993, Sue organized an event for the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists to help kids at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1994, Sue took a leap; she closed her design business and started Creatives for Causes. She was driven by her passion to help children and started a program called Art Buddies that paired creative mentors from advertising and design industries one-on-one with kids from low-income families. The program is based on the belief in the power of creativity and one-on-one attention can change the life of a child. The Art Buddies program helps kids discover their creative gifts, believe in themselves, and dream big. The children feel joy and pride in their success, and the mentors love watching them grow and help them succeed. Over the past 17 years, the Art Buddies program has served over 1,800 kids.
The program lasts several weeks. In the first week, the students are paired with their buddy to discuss their career aspirations. They have the ability to try on several career outfits such as police officers, architects, dancers, firefighters, and photographers, just to name a few. Then the buddies help the children sketch out their own career outfit. The next several weeks of the program the buddy and child work together to design and build their career outfit using cardboard, fabric, paper, and other art supplies. The program ends with a professional photographer taking pictures of each child in their own career outfit and a parade through the school.
There are many testimonial stories on their website, one that the organization shared with me about I thought really demonstrated the power of the program. Andy is an eight year old child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). At school, Andy avoided other kids and didn’t want to engage with other people. In the fall of 2011, he enrolled in Art Buddies at his school and was paired with an Art Buddy named Eric, a creative director at a local web design firm. At the start of the program, Andy was out of control and unable to focus. Even though Eric wasn’t familiar with ASD, he came back the next week and patiently kept trying to engage with Andy. Gradually the two worked together and Andy slowly started to change. He became so interested in his costume that he was able to focus more and he loved putting on his costume and showing it off. Andy also started engaging with other kids who were in the program. By the end of the program, Andy had a new confidence in himself; he now walks to classes on his own, talks to other students, and even developed a few friendships.
After 17 years in operation, Art Buddies is now expanding to serve even more kids and involve even more creative mentors in the community. They now need twice as many volunteers, twice as many donations, and twice as many supplies to keep the program going and growing!
How can you help?
- Be an Art Buddy to work one-on-one with a child for 7 to 10 weeks during after school time. You can watch their video to see what it’s like!
- Make a cash donation on their website.
- You can also join their mailing list to learn about fundraising events.
- Donations of supplies are also always welcome. You can view photos of the costumes kids have made for ideas on supplies, but they love all sort of wild and exciting materials! Some suggestions include feathers, fabrics, cardboard, glue, pipe cleaners, fake flowers, tape, colored foil, and more!
You can learn more about Art Buddies on their website, artbuddies.org. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. In addition, you can stay connected with Art Buddies by signing up for their e-mail list.