Contents of gift bags for youth that leave my care and survivors of human trafficking
Art has always been a big part of my life.
There is no doubt about that.
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I used to love to staple paper together to create little books and illustrate stories like Cinderella. It all started when a baby sitter was trying to entertain me by teaching me how to draw "real" people and not the stick figures I was doing at 4 years old. I thought it so amazing what a few lines could create. From there pre-school, I loved painting and in middle school it was drawing castles, princesses and dragons.
In high school, you could always find me in the art department working on something.
It was no shock to anyone when got to college and my major was Fine Arts/Illustration.
One day while walking in the art building, I saw a flyer requesting some college students to come out and provide mentoring for the youth in The Mount Pleasant Housing Projects.
I grew up in New Britain and I had friends that had lived the housing projects in the past, so I figured it wouldn't be bad, so I signed up.
Little did I know,
this is the population I would be working with for the next 25 years.
The school year was over and so was the mentoring, but the director thought I did such a good job with the girls I was mentoring, that he asked me to come on for the summer program. I still rememberwalking to apartments and doing "outreach" to gather the kids to come out and join in the activities.
That was 1991.
After Mount Pleasant, I taught art classes at the Boy's Club - which was down the street from Mount Pleasant, ran a church teen group with my husband, Did Studio2B after school program with middle school females, was shift lead at an emergency shelter for youth 0-12, was a youth care worker, classroom assistant, then house parent at Boys Town for youth ages 9 - 17, taught art to at-risk teen girls at NAFI, was part of the after school team and also a victim advocate at Safe House. aMy husband and I even had at-risk adults ;) at one time when we owned A Stroke of Brilliance Painting and we employed some men who were previously felons. Even when i tried to take a break from working with sexually, physically, verbally abuse, neglected, abandoned children, I still worked with children when I started my own face painting company - Funtastical Faces. Because of the economy, my family and I had to make some difficult decisions and we moved back to Florida where we became house parents to 7 teen age boys. My husband and I are presently at Place of hope as house parents to a house of 6 female youth.
My heart's desire is to use my artwork to encourage and uplift those around me, especially, the at-risk population.
When I do an art festival I always take that opportunity to tell others about my experiences
with the youth and adults I have worked with. It brings me joy to give out my book as part of a gift bag to the girls that have been in my care or even some whom I've never met, like the survivors of human trafficking, from Hope for Freedom.
My goal is that in the future I will be able to do more art festivals so I can make a living as an artist, share my experiences, and inspire others to go out and be change for good.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi