“I’ve been involved with Free Arts in several capacities for the past 23 years, and I never witnessed such cooperation and enthusiasm from a group of teens,” Professional Teaching Artist Linda Pulinsi stated to the audience of more than 50 people in the Free Arts’ gallery space. It was a celebratory speech, as Linda recounted the journey taken by 9 young women from one of Free Arts’ partner agencies in the Professional Artist Series Life at 25: Our Vision Our Future. Our Professional Artists Series brings together a professional teaching artist and children and teens that Free Arts serves to help children develop artistic and life skills through a particular art form. In this series, Linda led the girls on a guided journey of self-discovery, focused on their future aspirations using meditation, creative writing exercises, and an array of collaging techniques. Participates created mixed-media pieces, vision cards, and vision boards that expressed where they saw themselves at age 25.
On this particular night in the Free Arts’ gallery space, the young women had the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments at an exhibit opening, typical of many professional artist series. This was the second exhibit housed in the future home of the Bob & Renee Parsons Center for Hope and Healing. The artists felt the grand impact of the night and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. As 14 year old artist, Iris, shared, “This program has not only helped me see that it is okay to let go, get messy, have fun, be brave, but most importantly, be me. All of me. The good, the bold, the exciting, the fun, the energetic, the sad, the confused, the insecure, and childish me. It’s important to embrace who we are.” This series not only allowed the teens to explore their creativity and self-expression, but it allowed for them to learn transferable life skills, like resilience. Fifteen year old artist, Aliyah, added, “I learned that every time I started over and repainted my canvas, it got better and better, and that’s a concept I can apply to my life as well.”
The evening was powerful for all those in attendance. The stories shared were honest and optimistic. The artists and teacher had developed a unique bond with one another. As Linda finished up her speech that night, in front of the young women and their friends and family, she explained, “I have a yellow rose for each artist which represents friendship and optimism. I want to remind all of you to be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined!”