Free Arts is celebrating our 25th Anniversary. This year-long celebration will look back at our humble beginnings and our growth into a powerful community organization working to transform the lives of children who have experienced the trauma of abuse, neglect, or homelessness.
Free Arts started in 1993 with five volunteers serving 50 children. Our founder, Margaret Beresford, and original executive director, Stephanie Small, remember hosting the first fundraiser to finance Free Arts programs: a garage sale at Margaret’s apartment complex that raised $800 to buy art supplies and print the very first Free Arts brochure. From the beginning, Margaret and Stephanie knew that art + people = healing. They dedicated their time (and garage-sale treasures) to ensure that children could experience the transformative power of the arts and mentoring.
In 2018 alone, Free Arts will engage more than 1,000 volunteer mentors to serve 8,000 children. But we know there is more work to be done. Thanks to The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, we now own a building. We are working with a dedicated group of architects, contractors, and planners to renovate the building and turn it into a center for hope and healing. This building will allow Free Arts to host more programming onsite, showcase artwork created in our programs, and convene professionals working in Trauma Informed Care for professional development and collaboration.
Throughout our history, Free Arts has impacted the lives of more than 122,000 Arizona children. As we look to the future, Free Arts is dedicated to serving the children in our community who can benefit the most from a combination of the arts, a trauma-informed curriculum, and mentoring. We will continue to serve children living in foster care group homes, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, residential treatment centers, and unaccompanied minor shelters. We will expand to serve children living with foster and kinship families. We will further develop our expertise at the intersection of Trauma Informed Care and the arts. And, we will engage research partners to examine and further define how our programs build resilience in the children we serve.
We invite you – our volunteers, supporters, partners, and friends – to commemorate this special anniversary with us as we celebrate 25 years of transforming lives through creative expression!