“I learned that every time I started over and repainted my canvas, it got better and better and that is a concept that I think I can apply to my life as well.” Aliyah, 16
With the arrival of COVID-19, words like “unprecedented” and “pivoting” and “lock down” became common language to all of us. Free Arts was no exception. Like the rest of the world, we experienced an extraordinary crisis that isolated the children we normally serve in the facilities where they lived.
We pivoted and altered our programming to meet the needs of the children who were quarantining in their facilities. As we near the end of our fiscal year for 2021, we would like to reflect and share with you the work we did this past year to continue serving our children, and building resilience through the arts.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we reached over 1,800 children and provided over 200 programs to the children we serve. Free Arts programming included:
- Bravery Boxes (boxes filled with intentional art projects and supplies) were given to over 9,000 foster children entering the foster care system and to underserved children.
- Free Arts also creatively and safely offered Multicultural Arts Camp, Theater Camp, and Hip Hop Camp to dozens of children, both in-person for children at a single facility and virtually over Zoom.
- The Professional Artist Series was offered in a variety of formats to suit various health and safety needs. Partner agencies had the options of having their children participate in this program at their facility or the Free Arts building. In either setting, teaching artists lead small groups of children in focused art-making sessions that were designed to develop skills and self-efficacy.
- Our Weekly Mentor Program served over 100 children at eight facilities both in-person and virtually thanks to the resilience and creativity of our volunteer mentors.
- Teens and young adults who have participated with Free Arts in the past are part of the Alumni Program. They participated in open studio hours at the Free Arts building and received safe deliveries of special projects. This provided connection and engagement to the alumni who were experiencing the isolation of the pandemic.
Not only did we reach thousands of children in our community during this health crisis, we had banner year for fundraising. We are deeply humbled and so grateful for the support from our individual donors, who surpassed what we raised last fiscal year by 10%! Our corporate partners (such as Desert Financial Credit Union, Edward Jones, American Express, and many others) remained faithful to Free Arts and supported us by not only sending hundreds of volunteers who contributed many, many hours preparing affirmation cards, Bravery Boxes, and Bravery Bracelets, but also by contributing over $400,000 cumulatively to support Free Arts programs and events.
We have been even further honored to receive the support from foundations such as: The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, The Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation, BHHS Legacy Foundation, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation and many others who have pledged and donated over $1,300,000 to support our programs and the future of Free Arts. We also launched the Free Arts Resilient Legacy Circle where eight donors have designated a legacy gift to us in their wills and trust. Finally, we put the final touches on the Building Hope Capital and Renovation campaign where we raised sizable funds to support The Bob and Renee Parsons Place for Art and Transformation.
As we draw a close to this unprecedented and challenging year, we are inspired and encouraged by the generous support we received from our many volunteers, donors, and funders who believe in the mission of Free Arts to transform children’s trauma into resilience through the arts. Thank you for your continued support and belief in the work we do. We could not serve the children in the capacity we do without you. We look forward to reengaging with all of you in the coming year.
“Even though I have had people hurt me, Free Arts has many ways to help me become the happy child that I used to be.” Ericka, age 14