The Beads of Connection: A Free Arts Day at the Heard Museum

Laughter and smiles were all around the Encanto Room at the Heard Museum as children’s hands went up to let volunteer mentors know that they had completed the bead necklaces that they were making. Volunteer mentors went over to the waiting children and with caring patience tied up the colorful necklace for the children to wear. These necklaces would be mementos of the connection that volunteer mentors and the children made on this day.

The Heard Museum Free Arts Day presented by Edward Jones, offered the opportunity for two groups of children from Free Arts partner agencies to learn about Native arts and culture. Free Arts collaborated with The Heard Museum to create a unique experience for over 150 children. During the day, children from our partner agencies participated in creating beaded jewelry with the volunteer mentors. Hoop dancing and print making captured the children’s imagination and wowed the volunteer mentors as well. Children and volunteer mentors also received a docent-led tour of the exhibit Home: Native Peoples in the Southwest. For the children, the highlight of the tour was viewing artifacts of The Hopi and the Hohokam culture. One of the docents told a group of delighted children, “These pieces are stories, this a big place of stories, and you just have to listen to hear those stories…”.

Free Arts Days are one of the four programs that Free Arts provides. Offering a safe and creative space for children depends on generous support from corporate volunteers, volunteer mentors, and cultural partners. For this Free Arts Day, over 70 corporate volunteers joined us from seven different organizations including Edward Jones, Boeing, Verra Mobility, Dutch Bros., APS, American Express, and Desert Financial Credit Union. 20 additional Free Arts volunteer mentors supported the event. By giving their time, these volunteers did more than just help children tie necklaces, they connected with children and created a sense of safety and comfort that allowed children to express themselves and find hope.

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