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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

9 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.

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.

Previous Stories
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!

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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!

Previous Stories

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.

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.

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!

Previous Stories

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!!!!

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.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Art Expression provided a valuable after-school experience for Colfax Upper Elementary School students in the Allegheny Valley School District. Students, staff and families appreciated the design of the program, especially the focus on creativity and individualized learning. The culminating activity was a showcase event that drew great response and increased interest and support for Art Expression. Allegheny Valley hopes to continue its partnership with Art Expression. Cheryl Griffith, Superintendent of Schools

Client Served

Rating: 5

Art Expression provides wonderful programming for children! I have observed first hand the wonderful work their educators have done in the homeless shelter where I work. Their programming brought creativity and laughter into our space and provided kids with the opportunity to open up and make something truly unique. I think the kids truly enjoyed the process as much as the final products they created.