Van Go Mobile Arts is based on the power of art to be therapeutic and transformational. Our goal is not just to enrich our kids through art; it’s to change their lives forever.
The kids who we serve are a special population—high need and at risk. They are my favorite group. These kids not only live in poverty, they also face serious challenges like mental health issues, educational problems and disabilities. Some of our children are dealing with homelessness, or violence at home.
Through our art program, kids are paid to create commissioned art work. For example, area businesses will commission our kids to design and build benches. The bench-building program helps kids understand that they are contributing to the community. They have a chance to be the “giver,” rather than the receiver. Their self-confidence grows so much. They also feel more connected to the community, and we know that the more connected they are to the community, the more likely they are to develop as positive members of it as adults.
Kids, through no fault of their own, are born into difficult situations and difficult families. We help them build up their confidence, and their resiliency. Beyond the activities we do at the program, we connect them with other supports, from health crisis assistance to dental services. Ours is a holistic program that strives to meet the needs of all our kids, no matter what they may be.
I am proud of our success and the many children we’ve helped. Two years ago, Van Go received the Coming Up Taller awards, the most prestigious award an arts afterschool program can receive. It was a huge honor to go to Washington, D.C. and receive the award from the First Lady. Our success highlights the great need for such transitional programs to prepare youth for adulthood.
The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing kids feel better about themselves. I get to see them develop the pride and self-respect that comes from doing positive things. Watching these kids transform is a huge high for me. Kids who were outcasts in the community are now accomplished artists. It’s incredible to watch “hard” kids soften. They know that they can be themselves in our program.
I founded Van Go Mobile Arts in 1997 as a way to fill a gap in social services for teenagers in our town. But it also filled a need in me, allowing me to combine my love of teaching, art and helping high need populations. I come from a family of artists, and once owned an art gallery. I was also a special education teacher. I feel privileged to help meet a need in my community in this wonderful way.