Art Programs Alleviating PovertyGlobal youth art programs aim to alleviate a range of poverty issues from addressing social injustice or trauma to promoting healthier living. They are ambitious and innovative with results that are not only beautiful in the final product but in their process as well. Many of these five youth art programs alleviating poverty worldwide function as localized, hands-on projects centered around at-risk children.

With a need for such necessities as health care, clean water and adequate sanitation, why is art viewed as a beneficial use of resources? Thematic art, such as a creating a mural, can collaboratively explore a social topic and tell a personal story, not only creating strength of community between artists and student artists but also acting as a form of therapy. Many programs cite improved mental health as a goal. Participants benefit from investing time on a project with a positive tone. Below, we explore five outstanding art programs that are alleviating poverty worldwide.

5 Youth Art Programs Alleviating Poverty Worldwide

  1. Art Sprouts
    In Kafue, Zambia, the Amos Youth Centre (a project of the African Education Program) provides before and after school support for kids through a variety of programs. The center trains youth toward leadership and provides the education girls need to avoid marriage or pregnancy at a young age, which directly combats a situation of ongoing poverty.In 2016, Amos Youth Centre began a collaboration with Art Sprouts which organizes volunteers and creates programming around the world. Art Sprouts recognizes that schooling for impoverished kids tends to lack subjects such as art, focusing instead on the basics. The organization aims to help children express themselves creatively and discover artistic talent while exploring social issues, such as gender inequality. The chance to engage in art is fulfilling, fun and fosters the commitment of youth at Amos.
  2. Artolution
    Max Frieder and Joel Bergner founded this organization in 2009 with the hope of changing the lives of individuals through the creation and public display of art. Since then, Artolution has received several accolades, including the 2018 World of Children Crisis Award, a UNICEF seal and a GuideStar Seal of Transparency. The organization believes that through community-based art, resiliency and healing can take place.As such, Artolution’s projects take on such themes as environmental sustainability in exploring the effects of plastic in the ocean. The organization also addresses the global refugee crisis by creating public art with communities of displaced kids, building a nurturing and impactful experience with a theme of unity in the midst of crisis.Artolution tackles the stigma associated with mental health issues by creating a safe space to discuss them and how to access help. Artolution’s scope of issues is broad, their programming is implemented worldwide and the administration of their efforts is top-notch. Artolution has established programs in countries around the world.
  3. ASTEP
    The mission of artists striving to end poverty is to give strength to individuals, especially children. They recognize that those living in poverty lack personal choice and that engagement in art is a safe way for individuals to experience the dignity and human right that goes with making choices and creative exploration. Unlike the first two of the five youth art programs alleviating poverty worldwide, ASTEP utilizes performing arts as well as visual arts in its approach.Broadway Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell along with a group of Juilliard students wanted to fight poverty and knew the best tool they had to do so was their art. ASTEP works to awaken creativity and promote critical thinking. A commonality of all these programs is the discovery and strengthening of one’s self in recognizing the effects of poverty and how to proactively fight that determination for one’s future. ASTEP’s programming is located in India.
  4. Global Art Project
    The Global Art Project is on a mission to joyously create a culture of peace through art. The organization was nominated for a UNESCO prize for their accomplishments. Every year they create an art exchange with participation from 93 countries and 155,000 participants. The program is implemented on the ground by more than 200 Regional Coordinators around the world. This program, unique in its worldwide scope of artists, nurtures an appreciation for cultural diversity while finding the commonality of peace-seeking through the theme, “We Are All One.” This view of our interconnectedness creates a global culture of healing, goodwill and reconciliation, bringing awareness and unity.
  5. Adding Color to Lives
    Joel Bergner is a street artist and muralist who found a unique way of bringing his large-scale projects to youth around the world. He created the Adding Color to Lives program through corporate sponsorship with Park Inn by Radisson hotels. The program not only builds relationships and brings hope and inspiration to refugees and impoverished communities but also creates artist mentors who can continue their mission of healing and partnership through art.For Bergner, art is the tool by which he reaches communities in need. He brings art out of the museum and onto the streets where youth can feel the positive impact of their teamwork and self-expression and also feel their voice in the world, as students design the murals themselves through the process. Bergner observes the natural gravitation of people to art during difficult times. The artists create a hopeful image for the world to see, as love and compassion are expressed through collaborative art.

Creating access to arts education for underprivileged youth worldwide nurtures communities on many levels. When children are provided the structure, guidance and materials to create art, they engage in self-expression beneficial to their development. They also have an outlet to tell the story of their culture or community. Children participating in after school art programs are safe and engaged. Arts education can be an agent of social change and address powerful injustices such as violence, trauma and gender inequality. Sharing joy and struggle, relationships are built through the creation of art. Art can promote healing, resilience and healthy living and break the cycle of poverty for individuals.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr

project creo

Creo. Language: Spanish. English translation: I believe or I create. Metaphorically speaking, it has incredibly optimistic implications. How fitting that an initiative focused on the belief that children can utilize the creative process of the arts to escape the evils of poverty would take the name this inspirational term.

Project Creo is an organization based in Quito, Ecuador that aims to empower children experiencing poverty through visual art, music, dance, theatre and film. With the help of project facilitators, the children’s creations emphasize their self-worth and the undeniable existence of love in the world. Facilitators include volunteers from the United States and Ecuador, prominent artists and the world’s leading fine arts teachers.

U.S. native Michael Sample founded the organization in 2001 when he visited Quito and felt a strong desire to live in the city and help its citizens. After returning to the U.S., Sample became a professional actor and choir director. He also earned a position with the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Despite all of his success in New York, he still felt his true vocation was with the people of Quito.

In 2011, Sample began the first art project with children in Quito. This was the humble beginning of Project Creo. Its partnership with the Metropolitan Opera Guild added a base in the U.S. and brought more attention to its positive effects on poverty in Ecuador.

Other U.S. contacts were enlisted through a partnership with ASTEP, Artists Striving to End Poverty. ASTEP is an organization originally established by Broadway Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and students from Julliard. It does research and then takes action to make a child more successful, socially and academically, with the arts. Many of the Project Creo volunteers come from ASTEP, making them more than adequately qualified.

Much of the time, volunteers work directly with children on their projects. Together, they create murals, musical compositions or other artistic projects to be displayed in their community. The projects showcase Project Creo’s message of total love or ways to improve life in the community. For example, one project focuses on ways that recycling and eco-friendly lifestyles lead to progress in society by forming art from reusable materials.

Other projects in Ecuador have included an art exposition promoting healthy living and informative approaches to starting small businesses with art. By working with the Secretary of Education in Quito, Project Creo also works to integrate art into curricula in Ecuador. The in-school programs allow Project Creo to reach a large number of children and introduce artistic methods for the learning process to teachers.

Artists and teachers help the cause by teaching children in person, if possible, or providing free online art lessons. They work through the online component of Project Creo, called iCreo. iCreo invokes technology to make art lessons accessible to impoverished children and share the initiative’s mission with people all around the world.

Since its beginning, Project Creo has expanded beyond Quito. First, the project organized programs in other Ecuadorian communities. Once large enough, centers were established in Africa and India. Now, through information available on iCreo, lessons and project ideas are available to anyone with internet access.

As stated on Project Creo’s website, “if you have a body, you have a child in there somewhere.” The initiative’s efforts embrace anyone seeking liberation through creativity, regardless of age. Music, visual art and other projects initiated by Project Creo provide hope for Ecuadorian “children” on both individual and societal levels.

 — Emily Walthouse

Sources: ASTEP 1, Project Creo, Youtube
Photo: Project Creo