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Who Are We?

Art Expression, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization that was founded by James and Angela Lowden in 2001 as an expression of their passion for alleviating the social inequalities that exist among children of different abilities. It is a fully inclusive, after-school program that focuses on developing the social skills of children through art in the Pittsburgh area.

Mission Statement:

"To facilitate positive socialization with children and adolescents through expressive art activities in an inclusive educational environment."

Who Do We Serve?

Since founding Art Expression, Inc. the organization has served over 4,000 children in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties. Some of our partners include:

  • Allegheny Valley School District
  • Central Greene School District
  • Charleroi School District
  • Keystone Oaks School District
  • Mt. Lebanon School District
  • South Allegheny School District
  • Greensburg Salem School District
  • Homeless Children's Education Fund
  • Operation Military Kids
  • East End United Community Center, Uniontown

Program Goals

The goals of Art Expression, Inc. are as follows:

StArt Growing


Purpose

Teaches students the importance of nurturing not only the environment but also themselves, thereby reinforcing the importance of sustainable practices in both social and environmental contexts.

Description

Seeds of learning are planted each day within our children. These seeds are nurtured and protected. The seeds ultimately flourish into plants with strong roots (the home) and are joined by many other plants that enhance the viability and beauty of the garden where they are planted (the community). Growth is supported by many ingredients including room to grow, sun, and rich soil (the schools). Schools nurture the learning seeds in children, revealing many facets of growth over time. A child’s growth reflects these various dimensions. Physical growth involves nourishing one’s body to make it strong and able to function at an optimal level. Academic growth encompasses challenging curriculum with varied lessons and dedicated teachers. Personal growth involves the ability to relate to both peers and adults. Within these relationships, appropriate communication skills develop and the exchange of ideas is accepted and encouraged.

StART Growing is a program that will creatively integrate science and art in addressing the importance of both self and environmental nurturance. Creating favorable conditions in the environment will allow both the individual and the environment to thrive. Likewise, teaching our students the importance of nurturing not only the environment but also themselves reinforces the importance of sustainable practices in both the social and the environmental context.

The StART Growing experience will encompass planting and nurturing individual seeds in crocks decorated by the students. Students will care for their plants, providing adequate water, light and rich soil. This aspect of the experience will be creative (decorating crocks) and scientific (planting, watering, providing adequate sunlight). The goals of the program include developing an awareness of nurturing one’s self and the environment, improving social skills and tolerance, supporting positive self-concept, and engaging in creative expression through the visual arts. In addition to the individual plantings, the culminating projects will involve the planting of bulbs/perennials on the outside of each school building by the students in the StART Growing class during both the fall and spring sessions for the purpose of nurturing the environment and beautifying the exterior of the school. The final prong of the program will be a PowerPoint presentation depicting the StART growing classes.

During the classroom portion of the program, concepts on both self and environmental nurturance will be presented to the students by the Art Therapists. These concepts and lessons are intended to nurture in each of the participants “healthy living” techniques. StART Growing will encompass the literal growing of actual seeds as well as the figurative sowing of seeds related to healthy concepts such a nutritious eating, staying fit and being active. The StART Growing classes are intended to plants seeds of learning to endure far beyond the six week class period. The take away is the planting seeds within each participant focusing on individual worth, value and inner potential. The nurturing of this potential will be initiated during the StART Growing program and continue long after the last class. The final group project of permanent plantings around the schools will beautify the building exteriors, making them pleasant, inviting, and nurturing places within the communities.

Since the beginning of time, man has been inspired to create art utilizing the tiniest seeds of inspiration. This seed of inspiration comes from the environment and a strong desire to represent that seed in a visual way. Once the seed is nurtured, it manifests itself in artistic self-expression, be it in a drawing, painting, sculpture, or a planting. Children are the artists of the future. If we plant the proper seed within their very rich imaginations, the potential masterpieces are boundless.

Creative pARTners

Creative pARTners teaches to apply creative problem-solving skills and innovative design, through a weekly, art-based enrichment program that aims to promote positive self-esteem and inspire interest in the world of art.


Description

Creative pARTners is the first and longest running Art Expresssion program. The program was developed with the goals of Art Expression in mind. Participants in the program will be introduced to art concepts that promote problem- solving, sharing and social skills development. The program has been offered in local school districts including: Keystone Oaks, Mt. Lebanon, Greensburg- Salem, South Allegheny and Central Greene.

Experientials for the program have been developed based on student needs, as well as, school district, art facilitator and faculty supervisor feedback. The program has shown an increase in participant’s confidence, problem-solving and overall focus. Creative pARTners strives to be an outlet for children who may be over active for an array of reasons. The children are not judged or graded, but encouraged to express themselves during the sessions. Often times this allows Art Facilitators to assess the underlying problems that may lead to a child’s misbehavior.

Creative pARTners yields an emotional impact on group participants. It leads students to internalize the ideas of friendship and confidence, allowing students to feel comfortable with their peers and faculty facilitators outside of the program. Students struggle with the common challenges of social exclusion, peer pressure, bullying and home life stressors. This project gives School Districts an opportunity to support the personal growth of student participants in the program by helping them to positively engage with peers during these art classes, while developing the fundamental creativity and cognitive skills needed to explore the world of art.

Project EcoSmART

Project EcoSmART teaches elementary school students to apply creative problem-solving skills and innovative design through a weekly, art-based enrichment program that aims to promote positive self-esteem and inspire interest in the worlds of science and technology.


Description

Environmentalists and engineers have yet to discover a way to maintain the delicate, vital balance between efficient utilization and protection of the Earth’s natural resources. As a result of recent environmental initiatives, most local communities teach young people about the recycling process and the role they have in responsibly disposing of common paper, plastic, and aluminum products. Every year, recyclable waste products are picked up curbside by community recycling programs. A portion of the recyclable waste products which are reusable material may not actually be recycled. Local programs such as Creative Reuse Pittsburgh have found innovative ways to help divert a significant portion of this waste stream from landfills and make it available again to the public. Why? Because taking these salvaged materials out of their normal context allows creative people, like those behind Project EcoSmART, to teach young people to transform these materials into renewed objects of value and beauty. Although school environments are academically focused, students are also supported in their development of resiliency skills needed to navigate life’s challenges. Through Project EcoSmART classes, students will have the opportunity to develop these resiliency skills as they learn to find value in unexpected places.

The program is designed to improve students’ social skills and tolerance, self-concept, and creative self-expression through visual art, young participants in Project EcoSmART would generate innovative design techniques and facilitate the creative reuse of non-recyclable materials. For decades, artists and craftsmen have pioneered the idea of transforming discarded objects into works of art and have become prime examples of “working with what you’ve got.” Professionals in the field refer to any discarded, scrap materials that are used in place of pre-purchased art supplies as “found objects.” Whether using worn-out clothing for quilts, broken glass for colorful mosaic or dismal subway walls for public murals, artists employ their visual instincts to imagine the aesthetic possibilities of wasted materials and misused environments. Applying these same principals, Project EcoSmART provides students with basic art supplies, reusable refuse items from home, and salvaged materials to create large, three-dimensional sculptures. The project culminates with the students producing a narrated PowerPoint presentation to share with classmates, teachers, administrators, and parents. In addition, an on-line art gallery displays student artwork.

Project EcoSmART yields not only significant and continuing changes in the environment, but also an emotional impact on group participants. It leads students to internalize the ideas that second chances are possible and sometimes the most precious things are overlooked at first. Students struggle with the common challenges of social exclusion, peer pressure, bullying and home life stressors. This project gives School Districts an opportunity to support the personal growth of student participants in Project EcoSmART by helping them to positively engage with peers during these art classes, while developing the fundamental creativity and cognitive skills needed to explore the worlds of art, science and technology.

StART Growing

To teach students the importance of nurturing not only the environment but also themselves, thereby reinforcing the importance of sustainable practices in both social and environmental contexts.


Description

Seeds of learning are planted each day within our children. These seeds are nurtured and protected. The seeds ultimately flourish into plants with strong roots (the home) and are joined by many other plants that enhance the viability and beauty of the garden where they are planted (the community). Growth is supported by many ingredients including room to grow, sun, and rich soil (the schools). Schools nurture the learning seeds in children, revealing many facets of growth over time. A child’s growth reflects these various dimensions. Physical growth involves nourishing one’s body to make it strong and able to function at an optimal level. Academic growth encompasses challenging curriculum with varied lessons and dedicated teachers. Personal growth involves the ability to relate to both peers and adults. Within these relationships, appropriate communication skills develop and the exchange of ideas is accepted and encouraged.

StART Growing is a program that will creatively integrate science and art in addressing the importance of both self and environmental nurturance. Creating favorable conditions in the environment will allow both the individual and the environment to thrive. Likewise, teaching our students the importance of nurturing not only the environment but also themselves reinforces the importance of sustainable practices in both the social and the environmental context.

The StART Growing experience will encompass planting and nurturing individual seeds in crocks decorated by the students. Students will care for their plants, providing adequate water, light and rich soil. This aspect of the experience will be creative (decorating crocks) and scientific (planting, watering, providing adequate sunlight). The goals of the program include developing an awareness of nurturing one’s self and the environment, improving social skills and tolerance, supporting positive self-concept, and engaging in creative expression through the visual arts. In addition to the individual plantings, the culminating projects will involve the planting of bulbs/perennials on the outside of each school building by the students in the StART Growing class during both the fall and spring sessions for the purpose of nurturing the environment and beautifying the exterior of the school. The final prong of the program will be a PowerPoint presentation depicting the StART growing classes.

During the classroom portion of the program, concepts on both self and environmental nurturance will be presented to the students by the Art Therapists. These concepts and lessons are intended to nurture in each of the participants “healthy living” techniques. StART Growing will encompass the literal growing of actual seeds as well as the figurative sowing of seeds related to healthy concepts such a nutritious eating, staying fit and being active. The StART Growing classes are intended to plants seeds of learning to endure far beyond the six week class period. The take away is the planting seeds within each participant focusing on individual worth, value and inner potential. The nurturing of this potential will be initiated during the StART Growing program and continue long after the last class. The final group project of permanent plantings around the schools will beautify the building exteriors, making them pleasant, inviting, and nurturing places within the communities.

Since the beginning of time, man has been inspired to create art utilizing the tiniest seeds of inspiration. This seed of inspiration comes from the environment and a strong desire to represent that seed in a visual way. Once the seed is nurtured, it manifests itself in artistic self-expression, be it in a drawing, painting, sculpture, or a planting. Children are the artists of the future. If we plant the proper seed within their very rich imaginations, the potential masterpieces are boundless.

ARTchitecture: Building Bridges

ARTchitecture: Building Bridges is an inclusive program that combines engineering, math, and art with the concepts of trust, peer connections, and strength by discussing, designing, and building bridges.


Description

What is a bridge? Take a moment to think critically about this simplistic question. The most common conception of a bridge is of a structure that spans a gap and provides passage. In essence it is a connection, not only from one place to another, but also between people, thoughts, and activities. In Pittsburgh, the “City of Bridges”, we have 446 bridges, more than any other city in the world. The average person most likely does not take into account the engineering, mathematics, dedication, and artistry that are used to create each and every bridge. It is taken for granted that these bridges will remain safe when we want to travel from one place to another. As residents of Pittsburgh we are, in a sense, trusting our engineers to get us from one location to another safely.

What really goes into creating a bridge? There are many questions that an engineer – and our students – will need to address. First, what kind of bridge is being created? There are beam bridges, truss, arch, suspension, cable, stayed, and covered. Will the bridge carry pedestrians or bicycles? Will it carry trains, cars, or trucks? Will it be a drawbridge that a large tug boat can travel under? Second, how will the bridge be constructed? Will it be constructed of stone, brick, wood, or steel? What mathematical elements, such as shape, scale, proportion, and mass are considered? How are the structural materials chosen? Third, what is the environment of the bridge? Will it span roadways, water, deep gorges, or mountain tops? Finally, we will address how people utilize bridges as a metaphor. We will ask the students to create a self-portrait to interact with their bridges. What does “bridging differences” mean? What does “don’t burn your bridges” say about the consequences of severing a relationship?

Participants will explore ideas related to building bridges, metaphorically connecting with the others in the groups. Photographs of famous bridges will be viewed for inspiration. We will begin with two-dimensional bridge drawings and, by the end of the program, we will produce three-dimensional bridges. We will be counting how many recycled objects are used per bridge, and per class. Each small group will make murals to contextualize the type and location of the bridge. Participants will be able to create a sculpture to represent themselves and place this object within the finished product. The final three-dimensional bridges (which will be small-scale models) will be created from pieces of wood, cardboard, wire, recycled objects, and craft materials. Bridges will be painted and personalized.

Engineering concepts and simple mathematical equations will be taken into account to create a strong bridge, and then the process will be translated into a discussion of how having a good foundation and making strong connections are important skills to develop in one’s life.

One might ask why building bridges are important. In Pittsburgh, we view and cross bridges frequently. The overall concept of a bridge has multiple meanings and can be related to many areas of one’s life. The meanings that will be discussed will be those of connections, strength, and trust—all of which are reflected in interpersonal relationships. On a daily basis we display a level of trust in people/ professionals we have never met. For example, we trust our community helpers such as crossing guards and firefighters, who need bridges too. Participants will be symbolically building trust bridges with the other members of the group. On a practical level, we will explore mathematics and engineering concepts, since these fields are vital in the creation of bridges. This intersection of math, engineering, and art will provide the participants with valuable insights into the creation of not only stone and mortar bridges, but also bridges within the interpersonal realm.

From the heART

To provide specialty programs to meet the needs of children and families in the shelter setting and for those who are part of military families. From the HeART allows Art Expression to create a program or workshop based on the special needs of families experiencing homelessness or military families.


Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) Program

Art Expression has partnered with HCEF to create programs which focus on strengthening their mission to embrace a holistic approach to crisis resolution and treatment by addressing the needs of the total family and providing vital services where the family can find support guidance and redirection to make them contributing members of the community again. These programs are facilitated in the shelters as well as in conjunction with other local partners such as the Toonseum.


Operation Military Kids (OMK) Program

Through Congressman Tim Murphy, Art Expression, Inc. has partnered with OMK to provide specialty events and workshops which support the needs of military children and their families in the Pittsburgh area. These workshops are either stand-alone or conducted in conjunction with another OMK event such as Family Camp Weekend. It incorporates themes focused on support, empathy, and resiliency within Art Expression Inc.’s core curriculum.