I had the absolute delight of coloring with eight boys, ages three to eleven after school who are enrolled in Project Avary, an organization that serves local youth with a parent in prison.
My art patron, a pediatrician here in San Francisco, Dr. Mimi Pepitone serves on the board. She asked if I would be willing to teach the children art but I didn’t seriously entertain the idea.
Then she invited me to attend Project Avary’s annual gala and fundraiser.
Like most auction tables, theirs was filled with art that was mostly glossed over. Why? It didn’t have a connection to Project Avery or the compelling stories of these special children.
Then I met some of the kids who have broken the cycle of violence and incarceration by growing up with who they call their “Project Avary Family.”
I was so very impressed. I suffered growing up but their circumstances put my experience in perspective. It also reminded me that art saved me from alcohol, drugs, and certain self-destruction.
These children are more likely to live in poverty, to have attachment and post traumatic stress disorders, to underperform in school, and to experience profound feelings of abandonment and shame.
I know instinctively that if these kids can tell their story, in their voice, through art, then more people may listen and support them and it may heal some part of them.
So I’ve decided to teach these kids how to make art but with one stipulation. I’m also going to teach them how to tell their story, and if they choose, how to make money with their art.
We will be eventually be launching an online art gallery so they can earn some college tuition.
What is art about? It’s about feelings. And art has the magic to transform feelings.
The first assignment I gave was for each child to choose a feeling that they where feeling right then and there.
Then they chose the colors that expressed that feeling. One boy said happy, two said angry, one said frustrated.
Here’s what was interesting. They dove right in to coloring for two hours.
One child made art to express his “sad and angry” feelings on top.
Then he created the image on the bottom. I asked him how he felt when he made it and he said, “I’m calm. I’m happy.” And he gave me these drawings.
My childhood did nothing to establish a fondness for Christmas. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
But today is a new day and in the spirit of giving I would like to pledge 10% of the sales of any Experiences of Art booked in 2013 to help establish the Project Avary’s art program.
Regardless of whether you book an Experience of Art, I urge you to support Project Avary.