In 1993, a young art therapist was introduced to a program in California that provided opportunities for vulnerable children to experience the healing effects of art making and caring volunteer mentors. She immediately saw the value of this program and the intense need for it in her own community, the greater Phoenix area. So began Margaret Beresford’s quest to create Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona.
“It was a labor of love,” says Margaret, “I just believe so strongly in the healing effects of the arts, and that art is a window to your soul, a key to your unconscious, a path of hope in feelings of despair and I wanted to give that to all of the kids that were suffering.”
This young art therapist oversaw the launch of Free Arts, including the first small grant which paid for the salaries of the founding executive director and artist in residence. In the beginning, five volunteer mentors were trained to bring the arts to children in five partner agencies. Margaret was very involved for the first seven years and then transitioned to a long career working in adult mental health.
In 2017, at a transitional point in her career, she ventured back to Free Arts. “I just felt like I wanted to reconnect with the reason that I started this work in the first place,” Margaret said.
She attended volunteer mentor training, served as a volunteer mentor with a few programs, and joined the Free Arts Resilience Council, a group of community members helping connect Free Arts with community resources and opportunities.
Then, in late 2019, she was contracted to be the Free Arts Alumni Support Liaison. In this newly created role, Margaret will work closely with Free Arts Alumni, connecting them with community resources and providing them the emotional support they need to continue to build their resilience after transitioning out of foster care and shelter services.
“I am thrilled to be back involved with Free Arts!” says Margaret, “It’s been incredible to see how the organization has grown and changed to meet the needs of the children over the years, and being able to work with and support the Alumni in this new position is like a dream come true. It’s really like coming home”.
Free Arts couldn’t be more grateful to have Margaret involved again and look forward to learning from her as she guides alumni on their resilience journey.