Free Arts NYC is a non-profit and volunteer-run organization in New York City that provides quality art education to children in underserved communities. Their programming focuses on one-to-one mentorship and is supported by over 30 partnerships with schools, community centers and the NYC Department of Homeless Services. Free Arts NYC students are provided with learning tools and coaching that allow them to pick up art-making techniques such as digital art, painting, wood crafting, and even metalworking. 

Falling for this Outfit by Makeda, Free Arts NYC student, recipient of The Futura for the Future Scholarship Fund. Image courtesy of Free Arts NYC’s website.

These educational programs are also supplemented with portfolio development mentorship, internships and scholarships that will further support children and teenagers wishing to pursue a career in the creative industry. They do all this to make the art industry accessible to artists from diverse backgrounds by creating access, opportunities, and equity for future generations. This makes their work imperative to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Quality Education

Free Arts Days (FAD) program from Free Arts NYC, visiting David Zwirner Gallery to see a Yayoi Kusama exhibition. Image courtesy of Free Arts NYC’s website.

One of their key programs is Free Arts Days (FAD), which has been tailor-made for children ages 6 to 12 to develop their arts and communication skills with a one-to-one mentor. FAD is also supported by field trips and special projects with arts institutions such as the Gallery David Zwirner and the Swiss Institute. The program later culminates in an Annual Free Arts Day at Madison Square Park, where FAD students make art alongside exhibiting established artists.

Meanwhile, 9th to 12th graders (typically 13-18 years old) are provided Creative Labs. These programs are akin to FADs, focusing on developing professional skills to help them pursue a career or further education in the arts. Free Arts NYC has also set up The Futura for the Future Scholarship Fund to show further their commitment to caring for their students. It is a $100,000 fund gifted by artist Lenny McGurr to provide annual $1,000 for Free Arts NYC students who are pursuing higher education in the arts.

Free Arts Days (FAD) program from Free Arts NYC, learning the art of shadow puppetry at the Swiss Institute. Image courtesy of Free Arts NYC’s website.

Even if students eventually choose not to pursue a career in the arts, art education has proven to bring about numerous other benefits. The Arts Education Partnership director, Jamie Kasper, especially stresses that art education has been found to help students engage with school and reduce their stress. He also shared that criticism that often comes with art classes also helps young students develop social-emotional and interpersonal skills. Finally, Kasper cited a study conducted in public schools in Columbus, Ohio, which found a direct correlation between the availability of a comprehensive arts curriculum and a student's academic achievement. The more comprehensive the art curriculum, the better the academic outcomes.

Internships & Learning Pods program from Free Arts NYC, discussing architecture at DXA Studio. Image courtesy of Free Arts NYC’s website.

This is why the work that Free Arts NYC does is imperative. By providing free comprehensive art education for students from underserved backgrounds, they are also contributing to further care for their mental well-being and overall academic performance—a move that will undoubtedly benefit them in their pursuit of financial and social empowerment.

Find out more about Free Arts NYC’s initiatives by checking their Instagram on @freeartsnyc.

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