Youth Profile in Action

I discovered my passion for art at the colorful age of four. With homemade necklaces draped around my neck and paint caked in my hair, I delved into every artistic project with enthusiasm. Whether I was drawing with crayons, stringing beads, or painting pottery, I was happy. Throughout my childhood, my mom encouraged me to freely experiment with art. Although she was an experienced artist, she never told me how to knead the clay or what colors to use. This freedom to create allowed me to freely express myself.

Today, my passion for art remains. I still enjoy sculpting the moist clay, painting the ceramic, and sharing the final masterpiece. Art has offered an unrivaled sense of personal fulfillment and joy. However, as I acquire a more extensive awareness of the world around me, the widespread suffering becomes more apparent. Terminal illness, isolation, economic recession, divorce and bullying can all contribute to pain.  What the world needs is art.   

In response to the deficiency of art in my community, I created Artful Purpose—a program dedicated to providing disadvantaged and hospitalized children the opportunities to create art. Artful Purpose is a synthesis of my passion for art and love of people. 

As an eighth grader, I worked behind the scenes of the West Central Community Center art project. Growing up in a lower income neighborhood, these children are often neglected and exposed to the hardships of broken families. Even so, the children enthusiastically painted their self-portraits on four by four inch tiles. Some faces were portrayed as round, while others were oval. There were green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, and even purple eyes. Hair was brown, black, blonde, curly, straight and spiked. Despite these divergences of appearances, the tiles formed a unified masterpiece. As the children looked at their masterpiece, they began to see themselves as part of something magnificent. Art helped the children realize their significant role in the community. 

In August of 2010, I brought fifty ceramic bowls to the Children’s Hospital within Sacred Heart Medical Center. As I watched the patients paint, I witnessed a distinct change occur. With each brushstroke, the restraints of hospitalization dissipated. The children were happy as they painted. After this process of creating, the bowls were sold during the following October. The sales of the bowls provided additional funding for the Arts in Healing program at Sacred Heart. “Soup for the Soul” is now an annual fundraising program. I was excited to return the next August. This time, I brought sixty bowls. I had the pleasure of working alongside Mr. Nicholas Sironka, the artist in residence from Kenya. He defined his work most beautifully: “I have the most wonderful job in the world.  Everyday I work with angels.” Art helped the children heal. 

This summer, I also worked with the patients at Shriners Hospital for Children. Together, we created a mobile composed of ceramic butterflies. After three months of talking, painting, and healing, the butterfly mobile was complete. Today, the butterflies dangle above the children that play in the Recreation Room.        

As I look to expand Artful Purpose, I want to reach more people, create more fundraising opportunities, and offer different artistic mediums such as watercolors, pastels, and pencils. Currently, I am planning a project for the local Boys and Girls Club of America. The project would involve many supplies for the children to create unique masterpieces. After their projects are completed, the children would have the opportunity to proudly display their works at a local art show. To demonstrate the importance of giving back, they would auction off their art. All of the proceeds from the event would directly support the Boys and Girls Club. If successful, this auction could become an annual event. Although my goal is to inspire 1,000 youth through 2013, I additionally hope to work with the often unappreciated elderly. This expansion is exciting! As a senior in high school, I am focusing on securing a dedicated, energetic following of volunteers to continue Artful Purpose’s local outreach while I am at college.  

Art enriches our lives. Regardless of ethnicity, personality, background, and suffering, the artistic process provides a peaceful realm for expression and renewal. Art allows us to capture our significant, yet intangible dreams through colors and textures. With paintbrushes in hand, we are liberated from our suffering and free to paint our freedom in hues of any color. Art is vibrant. Art is beautiful. Art is powerful.