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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

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


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 )


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!



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.



Rating: 5

I began the Art Expression program in the Mt. Lebanon School District when I was just in first grade. From the start, I looked forward to each session, wondering what sort of project we would be working on. Even though I did not know many of the other students in the program going in, I was glad to be with each one of them by the end of six weeks. Everyone was very positive and friendly--even the fifth-graders complimented my clay dog! I loved the program so much that I continued throughout elementary school and middle school!
I found pleasure in the freedom that came with the middle-school program format. I could harness all of my energy into multiple projects--working on a plaster mask, watercolor painting, and a card for a friend all in the same session! I was never the “Picasso” or “Rembrandt” of the group during my sessions, but I still took pride in the work I created. All students--artistic or not--were fueled by the positivity and encouragement in the room.
Throughout elementary and middle school, the program boosted my self-esteem and confidence. By the time eighth-grade was wrapping up, I believed I had grown into a more certain leader. Inside and outside the art room, I felt as though I did not need others’ approval and was more comfortable with myself.
Now, I help out as a volunteer for the program. My experience with Art Expression has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. I am very grateful to this exceptional organization and would encourage parents and schools to get their kids involved and support this program in any way possible.


Rating: 5

I am an active nonprofit volunteer in the Greater Pittsburgh area. I have had first hand experience with the entire Art Expression community. They are a group of passionate, creative individuals committed to making a positive change in the lives of the students they serve.