Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona creates safe spaces for children to transform their trauma to resilience, and one of our premier events that accomplishes this goal is Creativity Day. As part of the Free Art Day program, Creativity Day showcases a variety of art forms and features different cultural partners in one art-filled extravaganza.
On Wednesday, July 17th, children, cultural partners, volunteer mentors, and alumni came together to participate in an unforgettable day filled with art making, movement, and music. This is the seventh year that the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Opera, and Ballet Arizona have joined forces to create a meaningful artistic experience for children who have experienced trauma.
Before the children arrived, volunteer mentors and staff gathered for a drum circle led by Frank Thompson. This activity built a connection between all the adults that were involved and strengthened their ability to help support the children. More than 50 corporate volunteers from seven different organizations including American Express, the Arizona Coyotes, Arizona Public Service, Edward Jones, Mountain Park Health Center, Salt River Project, and Wells Fargo joined Free Arts at Creativity Day this year.
When the children arrived for their day full of the arts, they first gathered in the Great Hall of the Phoenix Art Museum. The room was abuzz with excitement, from both the children and the volunteers. The children were divided into groups for rotation through the different art activities. There were four distinct, purposeful artistic opportunities that were planned for the children in coordination with our cultural partners.
At Arizona Opera, costume designer, Kathleen Trott, walked the children and volunteer mentors through the process of creating their own paper costume dolls. These paper costume dolls were the same dolls that the Arizona Opera’s costume department uses, giving the children a unique experience to visualize then create their own costumes in the same way a designer does. The children then moved down the hall to the Opera’s “black box” performance space, where the children learned dance techniques while upbeat and carnivalesque music played.
The final two stations took place at the Phoenix Art Museum. Phoenix Art Museum guides introduced the children to the work of Steven Yazzie, a Native American Artist, and then led everyone through an activity to recreate his drawing style of well-known Arizona landscapes and landmarks. Next, the children explored the current exhibition of Agnes Pelton and her unique desert transcendental style.
The final station at the museum was an African drum circle led by Frank Thompson and alumni apprentice, AJ. This participative performance echoed the drum circle Frank led with the volunteer mentors earlier in the day. This moment would bring the day full circle and connect volunteer mentors with the children that they were mentoring.
This day was not only memorable for the children, as alumni apprentices created memories during the celebration as well. Alumni apprentice, Niya, assisted in the costume workshop and spoke with local media during the busy day. This was Niya’s fourth Creativity Day and she called the experience “beautiful” and was in awe that every year it continues to be an amazing day. One of Niya’s favorite moments of the day was, “the change in the children’s eyes, from not wanting to be at Creativity Day and then their eyes start to glow.”
Niya is proud to help create “the happiest place on earth for the day,” and judging from the smiles on the faces of the children, volunteer groups, volunteer mentors, and alumni apprentices, it looks like Creativity Day does just that.