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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Art Expression, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth Services

Mission: The Art Expression Inc. mission is to facilitate positive socialization through expressive art activities and provide academic enrichment in an inclusive educational environment.

Results: Who Are We? Art Expression, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization that was founded by James and Angela Lowden in 2001 as an expression of their passion for alleviating the social inequalities that exist among children of different abilities. It is a fully inclusive, after-school program that focuses on developing the social skills of children through art in the Pittsburgh area. Mission Statement: "To facilitate positive socialization with children and adolescents through expressive art activities in an inclusive educational environment." Who Do We Serve? Since founding Art Expression, Inc. the organization has served over 5,000 children in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. Some of our partners include: School Districts  Allegheny Valley School District  Central Greene School District  Charleroi School District  Chartiers Valley School District  Frazier School District  Greensburg Salem School District  Keystone Oaks School District  Laurel Highlands School District  Mt. Lebanon School District  South Allegheny School District  Trinity Area School District  Wilkinsburg School District  Woodland Hills School District Community Organizations  Carnegie Library of Homestead  East End United Community Center, Uniontown  Homeless Children's Education Fund  Military Family Network  Operation Military Kids Awards and Recognition 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYP) Finalist Art Expression, Inc. was chosen as one of 50 finalists distinguishing the program as one of the top arts- and humanities- based programs in the country. Art Expression, Inc. has received a 2013 NAHYP Award Certificate of Excellence. American Association of School Administrators & American Art Therapy Association 2011 Model Art Therapy Programs in K-12 Schools. Program Goals The goals of Art Expression, Inc. are as follows :  Increase self-esteem and creative self-expression as evidenced by participants' ability to express and verbalize their feelings  Enhance social skills as evidenced by age-appropriate skills including ability to observe personal space of others, ability to share materials, ability to listen reflectively and comment positively on projects and ideas of other participants  Improve problem-solving skills as evidenced by participants’ ability to identify and communicate a problem, develop a solution, seek assistance if needed, and evaluate the outcome  Improve frustration tolerance as evidenced by participant ability to apply problem-solving skills  Establish independence as evidenced by participants' ability to present themselves in an appropriate manner  Provide the social skills and tools necessary to participants to support themselves or others when being bullied  Provide a program to participants which supports academic core standards

Target demographics: improve social skills and provide academic enrichment through art in an inclusive educational environment..

Direct beneficiaries per year: over 1,000 students.

Geographic areas served: schools, homeless shelters and community organizations

Programs: Creative pARTners, From the HeART, ARTchitecture: Building Bridges, ARTmosphere: Weather, EcoSmART, StART Growing, and ARTS in Motion.

Community Stories

49 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

Art Expression, Inc. does exceptional work engaging children and youth through art to increase their social skills, self awareness and respect for others. The organization is to be commended for its role in reaching out to those communities where children and youth may be dislocated, disenfranchised and/or left behind due to unfortunate circumstances like homelessness. Art Expression, Inc. lets kids know they matter and gives them expression through their artwork to be seen and heard. Thank you, Art Expression!

Comments ( 1 )

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you!!!

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Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a senior officer of Military Family Network™ and a board member with Art Expression, Inc. I have twenty years of experience working with the military community increasing their readiness, well being and resiliency to meet the challenges presented by military life.

When I was introduced to Art Expression, I knew right away the significance of its work and the value of its programs for military children.

Military children are not immune to the challenges of military life. Prolonged separations from a parent and/or caregiver, disturbances to routine and living with uncertainty during war can have unintended adverse consequences on children and their development. Some of these consequences are: age regression; separation anxiety; delayed skill development; acting out and other negative behaviors; anger; depression; and isolation. Most alarming, perhaps, is that a military child is at risk of losing one grade level in school due to a parent's and/or caregiver's service in the military.

In light of these findings, the military has sought to support its children by focusing on building resiliency, increasing well being especially in schools and easing periods of potential stress and disruption for families during transitions like deployment and reunification.

Programs offered by Art Expression are ideal in meeting these needs.

Military Family Network™ has witnessed deliberate and thoughtful sessions constructed and delivered by caring Art Therapists and facilitators; art rooms buzzing with kids' frenetic energy and whirls of creativity; respectful peer-to-peer engagement and support that blossoms both friendships and confidence; and, the look of achievement on faces brimming with pride.

Art Expression delivers fun and interactive art activities that bolster kids' sense of self, feelings of worth, connection, value and security - or, precisely what military children need.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I served on the Art Expression Board for many years. The services offered are exceptional and I have personally seen the positive results of the work with students who are in the program.

The program is delivered by certified art therapists and the cognitive and social benefits that accrue to the students in this program are exceptional.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a Board Member of Art Expression, Inc. It is truly a wonderful organization that works hard to provide children with excellent opportunities to socialize with their peers using the arts as a catalyst. The therapist are top notch in working the children. Everyone works hard to ensure that children receive excellent services.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Many thanks for your review.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I became familiar with Art Expression at least four years ago and worked with Angela to learn about after-school programs and offer them in the district where I served as superintendent. Art Expression provides opportunities for children of all ages and abilities through an interdisciplinary, engaging approach that is customized for each learner. One program was piloted initially at the upper elementary level successfully. And because of the partnership with students, staff and parents that developed quickly, there was a strong desire from many to grow the program, which eventually became an option throughout the K-12 system. Art Expression provides high-quality programming that demonstrates extraordinary planning and extraordinary results.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for this lovely review. Your words are very encouraging and gratifying. We are honored to have served (and still serve!) the students in your former school district.

Client Served

Rating: 5

For a second year, our out-of-school program chose Art Expression, Inc. for arts activities for the Summer Enrichment Series. For six consecutive Thursdays, our students, ages 7-17, enjoyed journaling, exploring their emotions and expressing themselves in a unique project. It was great fun to see the end results of the creative processes. As an administrator, I have to add that Angela and all of her instructors are professionals and a pleasure to work with.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you for your kind words! We are honored to work with the youth in your program and hope to continue our relationship again next year and beyond. You and your staff are also a pleasure to work with!

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Client Served

Rating: 5

One of our volunteers was so impressed with the work of Art Expression, Inc. at another nonprofit she supported, that she confidently provided the funding for Art Expression in our Summer Enrichment Series for our out-of-school program. The kids loved each week's art adventure. In particular, I was thrilled that our instructor, Miss Cheryl, tweaked the projects to coincide with our pirate play, creating backdrops, props and costumes. More importantly, she recognized the needs of each child and handled those with special needs expertly. Art Expression made our summer perfect.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Art Expression is truly an incredible organization that has such a positive influence on the children they work with. I have been able to be a part of their after-school program and the best part is witnessing the creativity and watching the students get excited about their art. I have seen students who, at first, seem uninterested then get involved with the art and all of a sudden, they open up with so much to say! It is really wonderful to experience that and is just one of the reasons Art Expression Inc. deserves a top rating in every way.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for this review and for your kind words. We really appreciate all you have been contributing to our organization! It's been a pleasure getting to know you!

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have had the pleasure of working for Art Expression Inc. the past five years and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve a variety of children and their families. I can't say enough positive things about the founder Angela. She she is incredibly passionate about bringing art to children in a positive and supportive environment. I have also enjoyed seeing how much the program has grown and adapted so that it can continue to touch as many individuals as possible.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for your kind words. You have played a huge role in our growth during the past few years and I can say enough about how much you are valued by this organization. It is truly a pleasure to work with you.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Art Expression Inc. is truly a unquie experience for both staff and participants involved. With many of the art programs struggling in schools currently children need a place where they can confidently express themselves and find their inner artists. Not only does the program provide a variety of creative experiences but it also helps children learn about themselves as an indiviudal and as part of a group. This program continues to evolve, serve, and provide a postive outlook for our local communities.

Erieotter

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Art Expression since its inception. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many dedicated, selfless individuals devoting their time and energy to helping children find their true personalities and gifts through the social settings provided by the Art Expression programs. Growing up I was blessed to have a loving family and acceptance by my peers. I am saddened when I hear of the issues that young children face today, but proud of this organization's mission to provide a safe, nurturing environment for these children.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you for these lovely thoughts. You clearly "get" what we do and your kind words of encouragement are very much appreciated!

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Board Member

Rating: 5

I originally got involved with Art Expression Inc. as a financial advisor. I was asked to be a Board Member because of my skill set. I had no previous experience with organizations helping children and having no children of my own, I looked at this as more of a business related function. As time progressed, although I had never personally attended one of Art Expression's sessions, I was able to see the results of the dedication of the art therapists and facilitators through videos and personal testimonials of the children attending the sessions. It was heart warming to see children developing a sense of self and building self confidence through the projects and interaction with other children. It was only recently, when I heard a personal testimonial from a prior student, that I remembered being extremely shy growing up and realizing that Art Expression is providing a vehicle to help children overcome self consciousness and provide a safe, nurturing environment where they can just be themselves.

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1 Beth113

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Art Expression is a unique experience - it's easier to fully appreciate it when you see it in action. As an Art Expression facilitator, I do get to see it in action, so let me describe to you one of the priceless experiences that occurred last spring with a 4th grade student. By the end of our second class, he said to me "I never thought I was good at art but I am!" On the last day of our work shop, he confided to me that when he grows up, he wants to be an art teacher. Whether or not he becomes an art teacher is not the crucial point. The real point is that this work shop gave him the very priceless gift of experiencing SUCCESS. It's such a joy to see a child go from tentatively trying something to feeling really good about what he has done.
I get to see this sort of thing in every Art Expression Work Shop. The children are so animated, so focused, so joyful. These work shops are geared to enable every child to feel success. I really think that an experience of success is one of the most valuable things we can give to a child - it's a building block that can catapult him on doing better in all areas of his life.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for this thoughtful review and for your kind words about the organization. Your contributions to the success of our program have been immense and you continue to do such great work with the children. I really appreciate your taking the time to write this, as I appreciate all you do! It is a pleasure to have you as part of our team.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am an Art Therapist, relatively new to Art Expression. Prior to working at Art Expression, I worked as an Art Teacher for the Pittsburgh City Schools and at The Children's Institute, a school devoted to Special Education students. During my career, I have been on both sides of Special Education - at The Children's Institute I worked exclusively with Special Education students, while at the Pittsburgh City Schools, I was called upon to practice "Inclusion" - that is to incorporate Special Ed. students into the "Mainstream" classes of students. One of the things I value most about Art Expression is how successful we are at Inclusion. A typical Art Expression after school work shop is comprised of 10 Mainstream children and 5 Special Ed. children. In all my years in this field, I have never seen Inclusion work as well as it does in Art Expression. I have so many examples of this - from a parent of a Life Skills student writing to us to say that her little girl was, for the first time, experiencing success in Art Making to an Autistic boy who went from communicating only by whispering to standing in front of the entire group and sharing what he had created. This is a program that plants a seed of success for these kids - it is truly an exemplary model for Inclusion.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Art Expression provides high quality and engaging programming. Happy to have worked with this organization for several years.

Comments ( 1 )

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for the review!

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Board Member

Rating: 5

Year after year, we deliver a program that makes a lasting impression with students. It's not just about art-making. It's not about getting a grade, or the academic learning that happens. Students share what's important to them through their art, with the facilitators, and with each other. They like learning something new and interesting about a subject, whether it's local bridges, being eco-smart, or pairing movement with art. They enjoy the collaboration and focus on frustration tolerance - knowing that mistakes are part of the learning process, and a very welcomed part of art-making. Many students tell us about friendships that last long after the program ends. In addition to our school programs, we reach homeless youth and families, sponsoring art shows that give directly to the art-makers. We reinforce to them that they have a voice, that they are valued no matter what the situation is. Art Expression began mural-painting projects to show our community support. I'm an art facilitator as well as a Board Member because I believe so much in this program and how it is helping people come alive with confidence and caring.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for your thoughtful review. You have played, and continue to play, such a crucial role in all of our growth and successes as an organization, and in the continual development and refinement of our services for the students. I hope you know how much you are valued.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

I've been an Art Therapist for years, and have worked in hospital, residential, corporate and clinical settings. Art Expression Inc. is one of the most exciting programs I have been a part of. Art Expression serves as an after school program, which reaches children of many ages. It's an opportunity for me to teach stress-reducing art techniques I did not learn until I studied art therapy in college! The Art Therapists design the art projects and are able to tailor to each classroom we serve. This means that the teachers and children can have input in what type of projects they want to work on, what type of art supplies they enjoy using. The co-facilitators are educators in the school system who already know the kids. This collaboration makes for powerful, open discussion. The art focuses on building self-esteem, frustration tolerance, social skills - things every child needs to succeed academically and throughout their lifetime.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

We had the wonderful opportunity to have Art Expression, Inc. facilitate and inspire our Middle School students with a piece that will become part of a larger project in the years to come. We are so grateful for their influence on our students and teachers. It was and still is a treasured experience. We look forward to continued cooperation with Art Expression, Inc.

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AMLowden 11/02/2016

Thank you so much for the positive words! We are grateful to have worked with your amazing students and we hope to continue to do so. They're great kids and you're a great school district. Your kind words are very much appreciated!

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Client Served

Rating: 5

During elementary and middle school, I was a student in the Art Expression program. Throughout high school, I volunteered with the program for several years. Art Expression has helped me become who I am today.

In elementary school, Art Expression boosted my self-esteem and confidence. Each session provides a "safe space" for students to feel free to speak openly, express themselves, and be accepted. As a student in the program, I looked forward to every session and can even still remember specific projects I created as far back as first grade--a colorful scarf, massive painting of a cave, and decorated box, to name a few.

In middle school, Art Expression sessions additionally gave me the opportunity to develop my communication skills as my fellow students and I collaborated and bonded over our love of creating art.

Now, as a college freshman Secondary English Education major, as I look back, it is clear that my experiences with Art Expression as a student and volunteer contributed to my current desire to become a teacher. Art Expression gave me the confidence to express myself.

Art Expression is a unique and impactful organization that I know can benefit any school and any child. I look forward to seeing the organization grow and continue to touch more children in the future.

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AMLowden 11/11/2016

Thank you so much for this amazing testimonial. We are so proud to have had you in our classes through the years and I'm grateful for your kind words about the organization. It's a pleasure to know you!

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

Our school district shared a relationship with Art Expression, Inc. over multiple years. What a clever design to a badly needed service. Therapeutic art. It levels the playing field for students who are struggling with emotional needs. In a very non threatening environment students are given coping tools for problem solving. Our students really enjoyed this program. The staff from Art Expression is professional and flexible to meet the needs of the population they serve. They get a thumbs up from this administrator.

Comments ( 1 )

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AMLowden 10/18/2016

We are humbled by these wonderful comments. You are very kind. Thank you so much!

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Client Served

Rating: 5

I am an elementary principal whose students have experienced the many wonderful offerings of this program. Our community reflects a high percentage of need. Art Expression has undoubtedly given our students opportunities to experience their artistic creativity, while dealing with issues of a more sensitive and personal nature. From staff, to parents and students....this program has had a huge success for our students and has been very well received. The approach is unique. The skills acquired are life long lessons, which our students will carry with them. One of my most memorable activities for the students were the creation of "worry beads". These were beautiful beads made by the children from clay that were attached to a piece of string. The students learned to carry them in their pockets and when they felt overwhelmed with anxiety or fear, they simply had to place their hand in their pocket and begin rolling their way through their strand/problem. What was so wonderful was that by the time the child reaches the end, their worries were gone. These "worry beads" were very affective. I can remember my interactions with two little boys in particular, where their beads got them through the day. Thanks Art Expression for opening new and creative doorways for our students to handle their emotions. Your services I'm sure have been irreplaceable for many of our students. This wouldn't have happened without you!!!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

The children enjoy making the art. Not only was they making art they was also learning at the same time. which made it fun and educational for the children. The instructor work very good with the children. I recommend this program for all children.

Cheryl101

Board Member

Rating: 5

Each year, we bring more innovative programs to life, and as a Board Member and Art Facilitator, I get to see many aspects of the program. The dedication and talent of the adults involved has a ripple effect for students. They sense our enthusiasm and commitment to them, and their personal art process. Seeing their faces each week light up with inspiration, self-awareness and confidence is a joy. I see students enter the program eager but hesitant, maybe even shy and uncertain of themselves and fitting in. By the end of six weeks, I see students who have really bonded with each other and the facilitators. I hear students tell each other, "I met the best friends of my life during Art Expression." When I go back to a school, the students remember me, they show or tell me about what they're working on, they remember the lessons. That's how I know the program meant something to them. I'm only there once a week for six weeks at a time, and they remember! None of this would be possible without Angela Lowden's vision, efforts and her family's support. Angela handles all of the daily operations, as well as assisting on site. We would love to see more funding and staff to support her efforts, or direct donations to the program. Tweet and Like us on Facebook, visit our website and talk to your school or community agency about having Art Expression programs near you!

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Board Member

Rating: 5

In any newspaper or broadcast, we witness the growing social concern of violence, trauma, bullying, and social exclusion. As an Art Therapist and parent, I know the importance of taking action by using creative problem-solving, kindness, and inspiration. The Art Expression program aims to address underlying causes by reaching students after school, as well as those who are currently in crisis in our shelter programs. We achieve our mission in a fun, interactive way that boosts morale of participants and educators. We help participants to feel good about themselves, empowered to have a voice, encouraged to treat others with respect. We show them how to use art to benefit themselves and society. I walk away from the workshops I do feeling inspired by the student's work. The students "get it", they become more confident artists, and often make new friendships. Those lessons can carry them through life.

Client Served

Rating: 5

It was truly wonderful working with Art Expression in our district's after school program. Inspiring middle school students, particularly boys, to engage in art and open creative space had been an ongoing struggle for several years, but our Art Expression instructors were very innovative in their approach to working with our students. Instead of entering the program with a firm or canned curriculum, the instructors captured the ideas, interests, and needs of our students as a means to determine which materials and projects to engage. For example, we had a lot of boys who did not want to paint, but really enjoyed working with their hands designing clay models and miniature worlds. They then combined all of their creations to make stop animation projects. In another case, many of our students, both boys and girls were dealing with the death of a fellow student due to neighborhood violence. The instructors were able to help our students creatively and therapeutically express themselves through art in a way that was respectful, tactful, and productive.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Art Expressions has been coming to our facility for a couple years now and we could not be happier! Our agency works with mothers and children experiencing domestic violence and starting anew free of abuse. Our families love the projects Art Expressions brings in and the opportunity it gives for mother/child bonding. They look forward to Art Expression groups and the therapeutic escape it provides. We have had nothing but positive experiences with this agency and highly recommend their services. All of the people are wonderful to work with and strive to make the experiences engaging and memorable for our families. Art Expressions would be a positive program for any school or agency.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Art Expressions is a remarkable approach to teaching real-world concepts with art as the vehicle. The program serves children and young people by creating an atmosphere that promotes healthy learning and social relationships. Art Expressions is a wonderful opportunity for students to not only create something, but learn how to reflect and communicate their unique ideas and thought patterns. The Art Expressions faculty are well-organized, prepared, and devoted to fostering high-thinking learners and future contributors of society. I would strongly recommend the program and hope to have Art Expressions return to my district for years to come!

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

During elementary and middle school, I was a student in the Art Expression program. Now, as a senior in high school, I have volunteered with the program for several years. Art Expression has helped me become who I am today.

In elementary school, Art Expression boosted my self-esteem and confidence. Each session provides a "safe space" for students to feel free to speak openly, express themselves, and be accepted. As a student in the program, I looked forward to every session and can even still remember specific projects I created as far back as first grade--a colorful scarf, massive painting of a cave, and decorated box, to name a few.

In middle school, Art Expression sessions additionally gave me the opportunity to develop my communication skills as my fellow students and I collaborated and bonded over our love of creating art.

Art Expression is a unique and impactful organization that I know can benefit any school and any child. I look forward to seeing the organization continue to grow and touch more children in the future.