“We don’t have art at our school.” When Anna Schuller heard these words from a little girl at her church, she felt compelled to do something about it. She started laying the groundwork for an in-school arts program, Young Artistic Minds (YAM), as a graduate school project. Today, a little over a year since achieving non-profit status, the organization has already impacted hundreds of students in Flint and Genesee County by giving them the opportunity to experience an arts education.
“When schools face budget cuts and curriculum changes, arts programs are often the first to be eliminated,” said Anna Schuller, founder/director of YAM.
“This is unfortunate because research continues to show that an arts education can improve learning in other academic subjects. Thankfully, we were able to establish a valuable partnership with the Crim Foundation that allowed us to pilot our program in the Flint schools.”
By the end of the 2017/2018 school year, Schuller and her colleagues (art teachers Kerry Morey and Christian Howard) were teaching nine classes a week at Brownell STEM Academy in Flint. This April, Pierce Elementary began offering YAM classes through an afterschool program then became a part of their daily curriculum in the fall. YAM instructors teach nine classes at Pierce throughout the week and expect the number of classes to reach 11 the second half of the school year.
Beyond exposing children to the joy of creative expression, Schuller’s curriculum is designed to reinforce other aspects of learning and educational development. She integrates sight words and other literacy skills into lessons about artists that the children are studying. She also incorporates mindfulness and discussions about feelings into her classes, which has been especially meaningful for her students with special needs.
“One day we were talking about how painting scenes in nature, like water and trees, can help make us feel calm,” said Schuller. “I asked the class to describe the feelings they experienced when they created art. My favorite answer came from an autistic boy, who summed it up in one word—hope.”
“Hope” is also a fitting word to describe Schuller’s feelings about the future of her organization in the schools. While YAM has much to celebrate, they continue to seek support for their program.
“We’re currently fundraising to match a grant that will cover the cost of supplies and other expenses associated with providing an arts curriculum,” said Schuller. “Regardless of how big or small, all donations make a difference.”
Donations can be made online by clicking the “Want to Contribute” link in the navigation bar, or you can send a check (made payable to Young Artistic Minds) to Young Artistic Minds, 3414 Edgewood Ct, Davison 48423.