The Wilmington art community came together Wednesday in an effort to share the healing power of art with children in need.
Students, faculty and staff at the Delaware College of Art and Design put together kits of coloring books, crayons and clay that will be sent out to kids who have experienced trauma.
“Kids are extremely creative, and if they’re not allowed to express their creativity, it’s like, no childhood,” said first-year graphic design student Kayla Navarro. “I can release my stress through art, so I hope they can find an outlet.”
The effort was part of the Emma’s Arts Kits initiative. At age 7, Emma Stumpf of Indiana started the project after discovering the healing effect of art while undergoing treatment for brain cancer. She decided to donate art kits to children throughout her hospital, so they too could enjoy the benefit of art.
Now a teenager, Emma is the winner of the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s Lead 360 ideas contest, which rewards youth who have innovative ideas for service projects. Winners are voted on by the public through a social media campaign.
“It was compelling, because it was personal to Emma and how she felt it helped her, and she thought it would help other children,” said Michele Fidance, national director for the Jefferson Awards Foundation.
Mayors around the country participate in the winning service project each year. This year, the city of Wilmington is partnering with DCAD, as well as Bank of America and Jerry’s Artarama.
Organizations giving out the kits in Delaware will be chosen by December. Some kits will be donated to Christiana Care’s pediatric patients, and Wilmington police officers will hand out kits to children in the community who are facing trauma.
“I really think projects like this provide the opportunity for different corners of the community to come together around something that’s not arguable. We all believe in the transformative power of the creative sector—whether it’s music, acting or dance—that’s something we can all get behind,” said Tonya Richardson of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
“(The police) have the opportunity to use Emma’s creative idea to not only build relationships with kids, but to give them a tool to deal with things that might be going on in their lives. To have an art tool to extend some positivity or encouragement to a kid who might find art is their thing or their escape we think is a great opportunity.”
Renee Garnick, director of development for DCAD said one of the college’s missions is to provide arts education to young people in the county. She said art can be therapeutic in a number of ways.
“When a student or child can’t find the words to express themselves, art offers a completely different venue for them and a platform, and whether it’s singing, theater, dance or the art our students create here—mostly visual arts—arts are another language, so to give people a voice who don’t feel they have one this is another way to express themselves,” she said.
Art students, faculty and staff went down an assembly line and packed bags with items like crayons and coloring books, and also wrote personalized notes for the kids.
“I wrote, ‘Always create,’” said first-year fine arts student Leanna Bacani. “Because this is why I’m doing this. I’m in art school because I believe in creation—because it’s a great way to be happy and get your mind clear and find inspiration everywhere.”