What We Do
Healing Through Artistic Expression
Free Arts uses the healing powers of the arts to help abused and homeless children build resiliency and learn to trust and heal. All of the children in Free Arts programs have experienced combinations of family trauma, homelessness, and violence. To begin to heal, they need services including mentoring, a caring community, and an opportunity to learn new skills and express themselves.
Art Heals – The creative arts transform and inspire lives.
Every Child Matters – All children have the right to be cared for and respected.
Mentoring Works – Mentoring builds resilience by helping children identify their strengths and increase their confidence.
For over 24 years we’ve used the creative arts to help more than 110,000 children:
- Build trusting relationships with caring adults
- Learn to express their emotions in positive ways
- Develop and practice artistic and life skills
- Feel valued and connected to a community
When they learn to use their new artistic skills as coping methods, children are inspired to make positive changes. They begin to overcome their past and dream about a better future.
Mentors need no artistic expertise to make a profound difference in a young person’s life. Learn how you can get involved here.
With this Free Arts feature, we pair adult volunteer mentors with groups of children from one of our partner child social service agencies for weekly, hour-long art sessions. Using our mindfully-crafted arts curriculum, mentors help children begin to process their trauma, build trusting relationships, and freely express themselves.
We train our mentors in youth development and therapeutic art techniques, as well as provide resources and best practices to encourage strength-based communication and empowerment.
Professional Artist Series
In 2015, we held 37 Professional Artist Series which served 931 children. Together, we created three murals across the Valley.
Free Arts commissions professional artists to teach children specific art skills and introduce them to career opportunities in the arts. Past workshops have covered a range of topics and mediums including dancing, acting, creative writing, painting, welding, drumming, photography and more. Artists lead sessions designed to teach transferable art, social, and coping skills. Most series conclude with a public exhibit or performance. These opportunities to develop and showcase skills vastly improve children’s self-esteem.
Free Arts Days
For many children, a Free Arts Day may be the first time they attend a play, opera, or museum.
Free Arts Days connect children to their community by creating meaningful, one-day, creative programs in collaboration with local arts and culture organizations, including: Ballet Arizona, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Desert Botanical Garden, Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix Art Museum, The Phoenix Symphony, and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Children of all ages come together from different shelters and foster care group homes to participate in Free Arts Days. Surrounded by caring volunteers in a community setting, children experience a sense of connection, value, and self-worth.
By making and sharing their art in this supportive environment, children can begin to process their trauma.
At Free Arts, we offer three different camp experiences. Through the program, children explore various art forms with the guidance of professional teaching artists, experienced staff, and caring volunteers. Each week-long, therapeutically-intense art camp concludes with a final performance where participants share their art with the public.
Multicultural Arts Camp
Multicultural Arts Camp is focused on cultivating a feeling of safety and bringing together children who have experienced similar life circumstances. Led by camp counselors and teaching artists, groups of 12-15 children rotate through five workshops each day introducing them to cultural art forms such as African drumming and Latin dance. At the end of the week, children showcase their work to the public.
Theater Camp boosts self-confidence and empowerment through the power of storytelling. This camp is a two-week, intensive, performing arts experience for teens ages 13 to 17. Children use improvisation, journaling and visual art to explore themes relevant to their lives. Throughout the camp, the reality of violence, abandonment, hope, love and peace are expressed on stage through poetry, movement and music. At the end of the camp, the children perform at the Herberger Theater Center for a live audience of friends, family, and the general public.
Hip Hop Camp
Hip Hop Camp introduces teens to the founding principles of Hip Hop culture, empowering them to use their voices and creativity to make positive change. Surrounded by caring adults and role models, teens celebrate these themes through the artistic mediums of spoken word poetry, graffiti art, hip hop dance, and DJing. Teens at Hip Hop Camp lead and teach their peers and community members in a final public showcase.
255 kids participated in camp
91% of children at Multicultural Arts Camp felt proud of what they had accomplished
94% of children at Theater Camp reported that practicing the arts made them feel better
100% of children at Theater Camp reported an increase in their perception of their own bravery
Youth Leadership and Alumni
Founded in 2013 by a group of eight exceptional teens, the Youth Leadership Team provides a safe space for program participants to continue to access Free Arts and connect to each other, even after they leave the foster care or shelter system. These young adults continue to build the skills needed to increase self-efficacy and resilience.
Youth Leadership Team members access 3 stages of program involvement:
Alumni Meetings – Held quarterly, these opportunities focus on a creating a safe space where teens can create and connect.
Volunteering – Youth Leadership Team members complete Free Arts Volunteer 101 Training and are eligible to volunteer in all Free Arts programming.
Apprenticeships – Members may apply for an apprenticeship which connects them to a professional teaching artist or counselor in our Professional Artist Series or Camp programs.