Recently, news from Bob Parsons GoDaddy founder, reported that the foundation he and his wife operated, the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, had donated to an organization that few people may have heard of, but one they found to be critical to healing those who had been abused. The Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona organization helps heal homeless and abused children through artistic expression.
History of Organization
In 1993, Elda Unger and Margaret Beresford, both art therapists, met to discuss a program that Ms. Unger had founded in California. The program, Free Arts for Abused Children, used creative arts as a tool for healing in children who had been abused. Ms. Beresford, along with Stephanie Small, who became the Executive Director of the Arizona program, gathered others who with a passion for the arts as well as healing and children. With an initial $30,000 budget and five volunteers, the program began with 60 children, the two women launched the Arizona program.
Since that small beginning, Free Arts for Abused Children in Arizona has grown to 13 paid staff members, more than 550 volunteers and a budget of more than $1 million. More than 8,000 children receive therapy through four core programs. In 2015, the organization was awarded the National Society of Arts and Letters Arts Advocacy Award. In 2011, they were given the Governor’s Arts Community Award and named the Arts Organization of the Year by the Arts and Business Council of Greater Phoenix. They are the only group to win that award twice and is the only non-profit organization in Arizona to bring therapeutic creative arts programs to homeless and abused children.
Benefits of Art Therapy
The creative process required in artistic self-expression can help individuals physically, emotionally and mentally. In addition, art therapy has been used to resolve conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, reduce stress and manage behavior. There have been studies conducted that indicate that art heals by changing attitudes and physiology. As the individual expresses themselves through art, their physiology changes. They become more relaxed, less fearful and more in control. Science has shown that art and music can change brain wave patterns, affect the autonomic nervous system and balance hormones. Children, in particular, respond well to art therapy as it helps them with problem-solving skills and increases cognitive ability. Students who are exposed to art classes in school are often more successful academically in some areas of math and reading.
In addition to individual therapy, the organization also promotes community-based art programs to provide socialization to those who may be isolated. These community programs provide an outlet for those who need to work through every day problems without feelings of judgement. For lower income children, art offers them the ability to express themselves while also increasing positive relationships with adults, developing motivation and helping them create their own identity.
Free Arts for Abused Children in Arizona’s core values are that art heals, that every child matters and that mentoring works. They believe that creative arts transform lives, that children have every right to be respected and cared for. They also believe that mentoring builds self-esteem, social skills, trust and the ability to express feelings in a positive way. Their vision is to be the premier resource for healing children through art.