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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Art Expression, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services

Mission: to facilitate positive socialization through expressive art activities and provide academic enrichment in an inclusive, educational environment.

Results: 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 and backgrounds. It is a fully inclusive after-school program, offered free of charge to students, that focuses on developing the social skills of children through art in the Pittsburgh area. Art therapy is not performed during the sessions, but some of the components of art therapy are utilized to develop positive outcomes for students. Since founding Art Expression, Inc. the organization has served over 8,000 children in urban, suburban and rural school districts and community organizations in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. Art Expression is honored to have been a 2017 and 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYP) Finalist, 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. Art Expression has also been recognized as a 2011 Model Art Therapy Program in K-12 Schools by the American Association of School Administrators & American Art Therapy Association. The goals of Art Expression, Inc. are as follows : - Increase self-esteem, creative self-expression and independence through the arts and discussion - Enhance social skills and anti-bullying skills as evidenced by students' ability to observe personal space of others, to share materials, and to listen reflectively and comment positively on projects and ideas of other participants - Improve problem-solving skills and frustration tolerance - Reinforce academic core standards - Increase leadership skills

Target demographics: Children and youth of all abilities and backgrounds in urban, suburban and rural school districts and community organizations in the Pittsburgh area

Direct beneficiaries per year: over 1,000 students.

Geographic areas served: K-12 schools, homeless shelters and community organizations

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

Community Stories

54 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1 Beth113

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am privileged to be an Art Facilitator for Art Expression. This week I started a work shop with a middle school group in Washington, Pa. As I was walking around the room, talking to students, I had a compelling conversation with one of them. She told me that 3 years ago she and her friend were in an Art Expression work shop. She said that they had collaborated on creating a sculpture. Since they both made the sculpture, neither one of them could claim total ownership of it. So what they did was to take turns housing it - two weeks at one girl's house and two weeks at the other girl's house. I was struck by how significant this memory was for her. Her face lit up with the glow of remembering this creative and significant experience, In an era where social media rules and cyber bullies reign supreme, it was so refreshing to hear this child recall this heartfelt experience. And these sort of experiences happen all the time in Art Expression. I was reminded of this at the end of our session that day - when all 20 students eagerly took turns to stand in front of their peers and talk about the art they has just completed. The only thing more touching than the look of pride and achievement on their faces was the look of encouragement and support on the faces of their peers. Art Expression provides ego support in a world where children often feel threatened, stressed out and not good enough. We need more Art Expression.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Art Expression offers more than just art instruction to the youth we serve, but the opportunity to find a voice, to express individuality, and create in a safe space that fosters growth. It is always a pleasure to see the new art being created in their programming, and the interest generated when participants realize that they are indeed artists and capable of creating beautiful works of art.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I participated in Art Expression sessions as a student throughout elementary and middle school. I benefited so much from the program that during high school, I wanted to give back and served as a volunteer during the after-school sessions. Now, I am a college student and Secondary Education English major, and I continue to advocate for the Art Expression organization. I am so grateful for the impact that it had on my life in shaping who I am today. I would recommend the program to any child, family, school, organization, or community. I have so many incredible memories from Art Expression sessions through my childhood. Here are just a few I would like to share:

I remember being paired with two older girls for a group project once. We were given a large sheet of paper to do with what we choose. We decided to use paint to make it look like the interior of a cave and add cave drawings. I recall being anxious at first, working with students who were from the grade above I had never met. As we worked together, I raised my voice little by little to share my ideas. I felt so proud as I dipped my hand in paint and added my hand prints to our work.

I also still remember the colors of my inside-outside box project. The inside was green, and the outside was pink. In my Art Expression journal, I had written that I often wore pink, but that I thought green represented me because it is a color of action. When we shared our boxes at the end of six weeks, all students were celebrated for who they were and what they shared about themselves. At an early age, I was beginning to accept my strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures through this project.

During one of the sessions I participated in, I remember the art therapist bringing a “talking stick” to allow each student to share his or her ideas for projects at the beginning of the session and share his or her work at the end. Some of the elementary school students, myself included, were so anxious to proudly present their work at the end of sessions that we would literally be bouncing on our chairs awaiting our turns. Looking back, though, I realize that the time for everyone to take turns to reflect helped me to develop my own acceptance towards all ideas--especially those different from my own.

I recall other students and me sharing stories from their lives-- from the day at school or time spent at home-- and describing how our artwork represents these stories. Moments like these made me more comfortable reflecting on my life experiences, sharing with others, and accepting myself and others.

Art Expression brings such a diverse group of students. Some students come to sessions because they love art and want to create. Others are hoping to make new friends. Many just want a safe space to be themselves. I have several hilarious memories of kids goofing around and telling jokes in the art room in elementary school. For example, one day, I remember we were clipping images from magazines for our inside/outside boxes. Several kids I had never met and I were cracking up over a magazine advertisement for cat litter. It’s such a little thing, but it meant a lot to me to have so much fun with new faces I had never met before as we created art. Meeting new people with diverse backgrounds and personalities began to open me up to the incredible variety of people in the world.

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1

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of completing my internship and even gaining extra experience after graduation with Art Expression Inc. Working at Art Expression gave me the chance to see how a non-profit is run, and I can confidently say it is no small task. What Art Expression brings to the schools of Pittsburgh, and to the community is astounding. From the president and founder, Angela, to the small administration team, to the art facilitators, and interns, each member of Art Expression brings so much to the table. Without this team working nearly flawlessly together, a lot of Pittsburgh's youth would be missing out on enriching after-school programs. I wish Art Expression was available to youth everywhere!

Cheryl101

Board Member

Rating: 5

Time and again, I see the benefits of this program in schools, shelters, and in the community. I have been an Art Facilitator for years. I believe in the mission and goals and loved the work so much that I became a Board member and V.P. of Art Expression, Inc. We are a small but mighty nonprofit! To be recognized nationally yet again is amazing. I hope to continue to help expand the program to others in need. This year, we ran ARTventures in History: Australia, where children discovered the littlest penguins in the world and their part in ecosystems. We added Musical pARTners with music therapists on board as facilitators. We created ARTmosphere: Severe Weather in response to helping children and families prepare for disasters, and to respond to others around the country impacted by hurricanes. Our work goes beyond the expressive arts - it's about empowering people. Life is an adventure, and we help children express their journeys, even through hard times.

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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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1 Beth113

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am privileged to be an Art Facilitator for Art Expression. This week I started a work shop with a middle school group in Washington, Pa. As I was walking around the room, talking to students, I had a compelling conversation with one of them. She told me that 3 years ago she and her friend were in an Art Expression work shop. She said that they had collaborated on creating a sculpture. Since they both made the sculpture, neither one of them could claim total ownership of it. So what they did was to take turns housing it - two weeks at one girl's house and two weeks at the other girl's house. I was struck by how significant this memory was for her. Her face lit up with the glow of remembering this creative and significant experience,
In an era where social media rules and cyber bullies reign supreme, it was so refreshing to hear this child recall this heartfelt experience. And these sort of experiences happen all the time in Art Expression. I was reminded of this at the end of our session that day - when all 20 students eagerly took turns to stand in front of their peers and talk about the art they has just completed. The only thing more touching than the look of pride and achievement on their faces was the look of encouragement and support on the faces of their peers.
Art Expression provides ego support in a world where children often feel threatened, stressed out and not good enough. We need more Art Expression.

Previous Stories
1

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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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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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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!

1

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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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1

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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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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!

1

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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1

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.

1

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!

1

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.

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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.

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.