Guest Post: It’s time to pass on the benefits of art to the youth that may need it the most.
BY MATT EVANS
Think about what making art has meant for your personal well being and mental health. Think about the positive impact drawing and painting has had on your life. Now, think about passing this gift on.
I am an amateur oil painter, the kind of painter who’s most common compliment received is, “I like your colors.” We all know this is like being told you have a good sense of humor. They are trying to be nice, but no one is taking my 24 x 36 of Casa Grande to the prom. But still, it is my avocation.
My vocation is as an equine veterinarian and, about five years ago, I realized that my vocation and avocation should converge with a very special client that resides next door to our clinic. This client is a residential treatment center for foster boys ages 11-17. Our practice takes care of the center’s horses who are used in equine therapy.
One day, while I was struggling through the most basic of diagnostic and treatment plans on one of the center’s horses, I inquired if the center had an art program. They said they used to, but state funding for art had been cut to make room in the budget for politicians to take more fact finding trips to Cancun or do something equally worthwhile, like voting on National Crouton Day, so they did not have an art program any more.
I volunteered my services to teach what I knew, basically poorly parroting the art instruction I had received, and was immediately signed on. I figured I could teach art until someone better qualified came along and volunteered, which hasn’t happened in five years.
Over this time, I have had the privilege of teaching dozens of guys the joy of representational drawing and painting. We artists, amateur and professionals alike, know the happiness that is making art; how we learn to really see; how our minds disconnect and time stands still while we work at our craft; how, when we are finished with work for the day, we are both exhausted and invigorated, in the best way.
This is the gift that has been given to us. And giving this gift to these foster boys, young men from terribly hard places, has been a joy for me.
Teaching art class has not always been easy. These guys have been through trauma that we know chemically and physically changes the way their brains work. Even without this obstacle we all know that making art is difficult. One of the main rules of art class is one I stole from the great living representational painter, Marc Dalessio: “If you are having fun, then you are not doing it right.”
Art is hard. Life is hard. And viciously brief. With that in mind, I’ll get to the point – the gift that we have, that was given to me and you – all of us artists should get out there and give it back. Every living representational artist who has taken the time to read this far – thanks for reading by the way – should be volunteering to teach art to foster children.
I know that is a strong statement. I know that I don’t know you or your past or your obligations. But, think of the difference we can make in the lives of these children and the difference we can make in the world if we can share art with these kids living in foster care. If everyone gives one hour a week to teach art to children in foster care, we can have this world in tip top shape by the mid 2040s.
Okay, maybe not, but we’ll be further along in the right direction, which is pretty great.
If you are interested in connecting with children in foster care near you, please reach out to Foster Village, LLC, who I am partnering with to make a program that supports just that.