Using Visual Arts to Help At-Risk Students in MD

by CREATE Arts Center
This class is proud of the progress they
This class is proud of the progress they've made!

We want to thank our donors. Thank you! Now in its eighth year, CREATE Arts Center’s smARTkids program is off to a great start. And we have grown! Your support has allowed us to serve a new school this year and double the number of classes we offer in another. We are working with 70 at-risk students this fall because of your generosity.

Our current smARTkids students come to class each week excited to make art, and have formed friendships and a sense of camaraderie in their groups. This happens because smARTkids is set up to create a safe space for students to take risks, build confidence, be part of a group, and improve academic skills and artistic knowledge.

A new teacher in the program this year shared, “One of my students, John, came in a few weeks ago upset about his day, which translated into frustration during our class. Throughout the process of working on our art projects – we are constructing animals out of recycled materials – I listened to his stories, and we talked about strategies to help with the problems that had arisen during his school day. Although John was initially reluctant to talk to me about his day, he was able to eventually open up. The last thing he said to me before he left that day was, “Thanks for making me feel better, Ms. Lauren.” I am thrilled to be serving students in my community through smARTkids. I have already observed positive changes in my students during our classes together this fall. They are fully engaged in the activities we do, and they thrive on the encouragement and opportunity to be creative and imaginative, and most importantly, to be themselves.”

With your continued support, the smARTkids program will serve another 50 students this winter, and 70 more in the spring.


Danny with his artwork!
Danny with his artwork!

Thank you so much to our many generous donors. With your support, smARTkids has acquired enough funding to open our program in at a new location in Silver Spring, MD for this coming fall!   

We’d like to share with you exactly what your donations do for us, and, more importantly, for the kids we work with. This is the story of Danny, a boy who was so self-conscious of his articulation and language disability that he would barely whisper his own name. He struggled to express himself in school, reluctant to raise his hand even if he knew the answer, offering at most timid and single word responses.

Each smARTkids class begins with a collective book reading, in which each child reads aloud to progress the story through rhyme, repetition, predictions, and questions. The more Danny was encouraged to read, the more he expanded his vocabulary, creating increasingly longer sentences in writing and speech.

The accompanying art projects helped Danny open up and share his talents: through his work, the class learned about his big brother and pet fish, his love of the color blue, and his goal to include sunshine in every picture he draws.

At the end of the session, Danny and his classmates hosted an Art Show attended by their parents, siblings, and guests. Though intimidated by the big audience, Danny spoke proudly and knowledgeably about his artwork, and even responded to people’s questions. This pride was shared by his father, who was amazed by Danny’s art aptitude and thrilled by his accomplishments – his work, his new friends, and his eagerness to continue to create art at home.

Hoping to build on these successes, CREATE invited Danny to attend a second mini-session of smARTkids. For the class project, the kids put on a puppet play. Danny happily collaborated with his friends to interpret the story, build the puppets and scenery, and rehearse their performance. The play took place in China, and during rehearsals Danny volunteered to the class that while many people think he is Chinese, his family is actually Vietnamese. The shy boy who could barely whisper his own name was now proudly offering information about himself and his background.

As the audience looked on, Danny and his puppet dazzled as the Emperor. The puppet and scenery showed off his artistic talent, and his clear delivery of his lines illustrated the progress he had made with his speech. The audience heard and understood him, reacting with delight, especially his dad and big brother.

Danny emerged as a calm and confident leader, using language to help and guide his classmates. The educational content of the smARTkids program is tailored to accommodate the particular needs of each child, and for Danny a special focus was placed on developing and growing his speech and vocabulary. By expressing himself first through art in a safe environment among supportive peers and teachers, he was then able to transfer that confidence back to verbal and written expression. His presentations in both of the final Art Shows clearly illustrate the progress he has made under the guidance of smARTkids.

We again want to offer a giant thank you to our donors – your support directly generates success stories like Danny’s. Thanks to your donations we are able to offer this program to more schools, getting more kids out of risk and in to art! 



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Organization Information

CREATE Arts Center

Location: Silver Spring, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​
CREATE Arts Center
Project Leader:
Heena Genti
Silver Spring, MD United States

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