Arts-Kids was founded in 1999 at two schools in Park City, Utah by Pat Drewry Sanger, an Advanced Practice Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse and Child/Adolescent Specialist.
Q: Why did you create arts kids and what was the largest influencing factor behind it?
A: Arts-Kids was created as an instrument for creating hope, joy and a life-long belief in oneself, especially for children and teens who have significant stressors in their lives. Without hope and a belief that life can be more than it is now, a person becomes angry, depressed or very anxious. Desperation leads to acting out in dangerous ways. Arts-Kids create a safe community of support and the room to express emotions in productive, creative ways.
As a clinician in Norfolk, I was working with African American children, and I often found that they would be referred for ADHD because they were acting out; but soon after an initial evaluation they were diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) product of their home environment, The inspiration for the program came from this; I was getting ready to move to park city and I was thinking about this children and how growing up in tough inner city environments began to become hardened and emotionally shut down by age nine or ten. Parents were often too burned-out from their efforts to survive. They had no energy to support their children on an emotional level. I knew back then that if this kids didn't know there was hope and joy because they didn't have a happy childhood, they would have no empathy and it would lead them to not care about hurting others.
At the time we were just beginning to know there was an increase in violence of young people, and that made me think about what my husband and I gave to our children, and how could we create similar opportunities for others.
I thought about the program while I was walking on the beach remembering some difficult cases in which kids were beaten by their own siblings for “walking like a girl” or kids that would never come home because of their abusive alcoholic, thought f one of my previous clients, and I saw him as a mentor for one of the kids, suddenly I could see the whole program. I never had an experience like that; I felt it was something I had to make happen, even if I was coming here (to Park City) with a complete different environment.
And, to my satisfaction, the kids in the Arts Kids program love it, for them it’s not just something you do after school, it something that touches their heart and gives them a sense of belonging.
Q: How did it all started?
A: I didn't plan to start a nonprofit, I just started the program and tried to get as many kids as possible. I was encouraged by some coworkers to write a grant. I received the money to start the program, $4,500, but that time I didn't have a job I needed to support the program. We started with about fifteen kids at the Kimble Arts Center for almost twelve weeks, we had to adjust for the next coming semesters. I was talked into becoming a board member with a couple other friends of mine to make sure that the program would go in the direction I wanted it to go.
I remember we got sick when we had our first fundraiser. Back then I just wanted to make it was an ongoing, distributable program and maybe making it an open manual, available for anyone who would invest in it to use it to their advantage, to apply it to their institutions or training.
Q: What other organizations would you consider to be your organization's peers?
Well, I think it's a disadvantage to be compared to organizations that does not really compare to us. I have been surprised that there are many similar programs across the country but I haven't seen one that uses all of the arts and has the psychological approach of it. This program is different and unique. We haven't found the key to getting our mission widely communicated, but so far I’ve met people saying all the time we need more of this, but we haven't been able to translate to donors and founders but I’m thrilled to have found our new executive director, I love all the angles that she is approaching: finding new potential founders, donors, events, and social media approach it’s truly amazing.
Q: What would you like people to know about Arts Kids?
I want them to know our mission and reason to be: Arts-Kids was created as an instrument for creating hope, joy and a life-long belief in oneself, especially for children and teens who have significant stressors in their lives. Become a part of our team! Donate and support us today!