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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

20 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.

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.

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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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.

Comments ( 1 )

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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.

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.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

Glenn Smartschan

I have been involved with Art Expression since its inception. First, as Superintendent of Schools in Mt. Lebanon, when Art Expression opened its first after school class in Mt. Lebanon schools, and now as a board member.

Art Expression has helped hundreds of students find a voice and an identity through the arts. As a result of the program I have witnessed students dramatically improve their interpersonal relationships with their peers and use the Art Expression experience to enhance academic performance.

I am proud to be a member of the Board and to be a part of a program which has changed the lives of many students.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

In my extensive involvement in public education I often struggled with our inability to make profound connections with All of our students. Art Expression, by its design and implementation, creates unique opportunities for young people to grow socially, emotionally and academically through exposure and participation in the ARTS.

Board Member

Rating: 5

It is rare in one’s life to find something that one can be an advocate for and I consider myself fortunate to have found Art Expression Incorporated. This organization is a unique program that utilizes my personal passions of art therapy, helping children, and volunteering for a wonderful cause. Being a board member since its nonprofit inception has been one of the best experiences of my life. I consider myself lucky to be a part of a team of like minded individuals, whose ultimate goal is to help others. The positive results of the program are seen in participant’s behaviors, attitudes, and personal stories. I have seen the program grow and change over the last few years to help not only those in schools but also within the military, homeless shelters, and within various community based programs. Even with its expansions it continues to hold its core principals and ideals closely. I look forward to seeing the program grows, expands, and changes in the coming years.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

It is rare in ones life to find something that one can be truly passionate about and I consider myself lucky to have been fortunate enough to have found Art Expression Incorporated. This organization is a one of a kind program that utilizes my passion of art therapy within school systems. What makes this program unique is that it is an inclusive (having both regular and special education students) social skill building program. It is run by a master level art therapist and school facilitators within the school building; the place where most socialization occurs. Students use both directive and open studio approaches to expressive themselves in distinctive ways. The programs goals include increase in self esteem, increase in positive socialization techniques, use of problem solving steps, and better tolerance of anger frustration. The positive results of the program are seen in students behaviors, attitudes, and personal stories.

Kathy185

Board Member

Rating: 5

As Art Expression begins its fifth year in the Keystone Oaks School District, the enthusiasm of the students participating in this after-school program continues to be strong. Opportunities to engage in creative art activities provided in an inclusive environment enhances the social and academic growth of our students! The program not only encourages creative development, and supports academic/creative arts standards, but also provides opportunities for students to be supportive of one another and share their own perspective, while learning to understand the perspectives of their peers. As both a District Administrator and an Art Expression Board member, I value the program on both levels for its contributions to Keystone Oaks School District.

Melissa Carey

Board Member

Rating: 5

I knew when I was invited to join the Art Expression Board of Directors that I already connected with the mission and guiding principles of the organization. Overall, Art Expression, Inc. is motivated to provide programs that ‘facilitate positive socialization with children and adolescents through expressive art activities in an inclusive educational environment.”

It wasn’t until I became involved with the board that I realized this was so much more. To hear the positive statements of children finding their creativity and passion, growing in confidence both artistically and personally, and navigating the realm of positive socialization and peer to peer interaction because of the impact Art Expression is making in their lives renews a commitment to the work that Art Expression does in the schools and the community programs we service.

As a Music Therapist, writer, and social media manager, I have worked with many organizations and groups that do great work in the Pittsburgh area. Bringing those tools to the board and learning more in-depth about the work of Art Expression have been an exciting endeavor and I am proud of my association with the members of the board and the staff of Art Expression.

I encourage all artists, creative types, parents and school administrators, and those interested in bringing positive social tools through art, youth-focused groups who support inclusive programming, and community-based businesses who support youth and educational programs to learn more about the work our Masters level Art Therapists facilitate with these students and children through the many programs Art Expression offers. You won’t be disappointed.

Melissa Carey

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Having followed the progression of Art Expression over the last 3 years from an outsider and nonprofit blogger perspective, I can’t say enough about the work that Art Expression does. Coming from my background in Music Therapy, I value the impact of their work using art to develop positive social interaction, self-esteem, and creativity in our youth in a fully inclusive environment. When you speak with those involved with the organization, you can feel the passion, intensity, intelligence, and devotion they have for providing the services they offer. The organization has established a range of programs, integrating artistic mediums with science and technology, math, environmental issues, and emotional well-being. What is also impressive, is that Art Expression works well with others – aligning their programming with educational core standards accessing teacher input; connecting with other organizations to combine projects, such as with the Toonseum, Operation Military Kids, and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund; and bringing together children of all abilities and backgrounds to experience the power of art in their lives. I fully endorse and support the ways Art Expression implements their mission and passion for bringing expressive art activities to children.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

As both a Board Member and as a Professional working in the field of education, I give my full endoresment to Art Expression. I have observed the program in action in the Keystone Oaks School District. Its impact on our students is impressive and the respect for others it engenders is so valuable.
Kathy Foster

Review from The Pittsburgh Foundation

Board Member

Rating: 5

it is such a pleasure to service on a board that cares so very much about children. Through Art Expression the children not only have fun creating their projects but also can express feelings about themselves. Sometimes in the normal environment of a regular classroom, children either can't or are afraid to express their feelings, but through the wonderful experience of Art Expression children feel comfortable being themselves.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Art Expression is a dynamic organization that works very hard to help children express themselves through their art work. I have seen the many positive impacts this program has created for children. The development and growth of self esteem is a goal of Art Expression and hopes to give kids another tool in their tool belt. This program is the only one of its kind making it unique, creative and exciting for kids.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a Board Member and Volunteer Consultant with Art Expression, Inc. I have seen the program up close and personal. The Art Expression program changes lives. Members participate in afterschool art directives aimed to stimulate education, social skills and personal growth. Everyone's art is seen as personal expression, and the group, the facilitators, and the mastered degreed art therapist all play a part in the fun. The most important part is that participants feel a connection and often times find friendships that develop, and teachers become true mentors. The program is inclusive, non-judgmental, fun, and educational.