Meeting with the NGO Art Start

Meeting with the NGO Art Start - illustration 1

Snapshot of the program "Family Portrait". 

Art Start is an award-winning, internationally recognized organization that truly believes in the power of art and change! Their various programs offer a safe space for marginalized youth. Here, they use a student-centered educational approach where scholars can identify their confidence and apply it positively within the social world! The organization's mantra, "Imagine, believe, create, become", is central to their collective work and overall identity. Art Start paves the way for larger conversations about the future... This is why Artsper has chosen to join the cause for Arty Friday! 

1. Why create Art Start? How do you think art saves lives?

Art Start was founded in 1991 when a small group of artists decided to meet with children living in New York City transitional housing residences (shelters) to create art together. Since then, Art Start has been bringing creative arts workshops directly to children and youth whose lives have been impacted by poverty, homelessness, trauma, and involvement in the juvenile justice system. Our tagline “art saves lives" is a nod to the power of the creative process to provide vital opportunities for youth to imagine, believe, and represent their own creative vision for their lives and communities. Our programs provide a multitude of opportunities for children to grow and develop self-awareness through self-expression, which has been proven to reduce stress and accelerate psychological and physical healing.

2. Can you give an overview of what the organization advocates for?

Art Start uses the creative process to nurture the voices, hearts, and minds of historically marginalized youth, offering a space for them to imagine, believe, and represent their creative vision for their lives and communities.

Through consistent workshops with long-term partners, including youth organizations, schools, alternative sentencing programs, and residences for youth and families experiencing homelessness, art becomes the starting point of a larger life process and the start of larger conversations about the future of our communities.

Meeting with the NGO Art Start - illustration 1
Meeting with the NGO Art Start - illustration 1

Left: Snapshot of the "Portrait Project" program / Right: Snapshot of the "Wear Orange" campaign at Coney Island

3. Do you have a personal memory of seeing the organization make a difference?

As a Teaching Artist for Art Start, I taught dance, theater, and visual arts in our Creative Collectives workshops. I always enjoyed seeing the way youth came out of their shells in the workshops. As our workshops are not your traditional art lesson and are more collaborative and student-centered, youth are able to experiment and make their own decisions. In particular, when teaching justice-involved youth, the workshop would serve as a distraction and break from the norm. One youth in particular I remember observing how her walls slowly came down over the course of the workshops and how she'd encourage others with her enthusiasm. She'd say “I feel like a kid doing this", which for a young person navigating the juvenile justice system, isn't always available; the opportunity to play, imagine and have adults interested in your creative vision.   

Though our Creative Collectives participants are in very transient situations, we've had the opportunity to build strong relationships with participants and in some cases have youth join our other programs such as participating in the Portrait Project and Family Portrait Project as well as our Creative Connections Program. We've also had alumni join our staff and volunteers.

4. Which cultural figures or institutions have you already had the opportunity to collaborate with?

Partnering with New York City's arts, media, and business industries is vital to Art Start's programming. Some partners get involved with the Art Start youth as mentors, internship hosts, or by providing workshops on various aspects of their industry specialty; ranging from a toy-making workshop at Nickelodeon studios, branding consultation with Wilhelmina Studios, or special effects workshop with MAC cosmetics makeup artists. 

Other partners may not directly engage the youth but support the Art Start programs that engage them by partnering for industry events, sales, and promotions, or other creative collaborations that spread awareness and gather support for Art Start. From a Glossier gift donation for Art Start participants, to a Black Lives Matter t-shirt fundraising campaign by Staple Design or an open mic fundraiser by Joe & The Juice, all have partnered with Art Start to support our work in ways that fit into the culture of their company.

Most recently, we have collaborated with corporate and community partners such as Champion, Smashbox Studios, Nickelodeon, Atlantic Records, Sterling Brands, YouTube Whilelmina + Studio, STAPLE, BOMBAS, AMBUSH, Friend of a Friend, Blick, among many others. 

5. What would make the greatest impact in terms of helping the organization?

As with many non-profit organizations, we have faced many changes and challenges during this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing laws in place, Art Start had to pause in-person workshops at the end of March, and quickly implemented a variety of remote learning strategies including activity books, activity boxes, virtual learning, homework help calls, pre-recorded videos, among others; in some cases doing in-person socially distanced workshops where permitted.

As we continue to navigate the pandemic, we anticipate continued increased costs to our programming as we know that remote and/or hybrid learning will most likely be our reality for a while. Both in-kind and monetary donations are welcomed. These would contribute to individualized activity boxes, printing, and shipment of created activity books, software, and hardware to facilitate digital learning, PPE equipment for in-person, among other needs.

Meeting with the NGO Art Start - illustration 1
Meeting with the NGO Art Start - illustration 1

Left: Workshop of the "Creative Collectives" program / Right: Emerging Artists of the program

6. How does this organization differ from others in the same field?

Art Start brings creative opportunities to young people where they are, so they can explore their own potential and inherent talents while establishing a sense of consistency and safety with caring and supportive teaching artists and mentors. The Art Start model is student-centered, process over product, collaborative, consistent and uses the creative process to achieve personal development.

The Creative Collectives curriculum is specially designed for our populations, using a methodology that includes an open-door policy (participants join the program at any time without feeling like they have missed out on previous learning opportunities) and the frequency and consistency needed for youth who are experiencing instability and turbulence in their young lives. The Creative Connections curriculum is tailored to each individual participant and gives youth the agency to determine their goals and the support needed to realize them. The Public Exchanges curriculum provides a safe space for young people from historically marginalized communities to contemplate and share the complex narratives of their lives, and create visions of their present and future that affirm how they see themselves and how they want to be seen by others.

7. What are your current or future projects? How can followers learn more about them and become more involved?

Currently, Art Start is producing the Portrait Project in two cities, New York and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Through Art Start workshops, in-depth dialogue, interviews, and photoshoots, Portrait Project participants explore issues related to their personal identities and envision their lives beyond circumstance and stereotype. Exhibitions for this year's cohort have begun and we encourage folks to look out online for our Digital exhibition opening on December 4th and in-person exhibitions next Spring. People can also check out our living archive to learn more. 

Giving Tuesday is December 1st and we are raising funds for our  Creative Collectives programming.

We invite our followers to connect with us via social media! We are very active on our socials, check out our Instagram, Facebook & learn more about us through our website ! 

Many thanks to Mariama Noguera-Devers, Deputy Director at Art Start for answering our questions! 

Their favorite artworks

Painting, Devant la porte, Em'Ji

Devant la porte


Painting - 58 x 33 x 4 cm Painting - 22.8 x 13 x 1.6 inch


Painting, Grace et Rondeur, Isabelle Riffard

Grace et Rondeur

Isabelle Riffard

Painting - 100 x 50 x 2 cm Painting - 39.4 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Painting, Aller plus loin, Isabelle Riffard

Aller plus loin

Isabelle Riffard

Painting - 92 x 73 x 2.5 cm Painting - 36.2 x 28.7 x 1 inch


Painting, Night rain, Ewa Hauton

Night rain

Ewa Hauton

Painting - 130 x 100 x 2 cm Painting - 51.2 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch


Sculpture, Voyage, Stratos



Sculpture - 50 x 50 x 3 cm Sculpture - 19.7 x 19.7 x 1.2 inch


Painting, Bailando con las olas, Isabelle Jacq Gamboena

Bailando con las olas

Isabelle Jacq Gamboena

Painting - 80 x 92 x 2 cm Painting - 31.5 x 36.2 x 0.8 inch


Painting, johnny hallyday, Louis Magre

johnny hallyday

Louis Magre

Painting - 60 x 60 x 3 cm Painting - 23.6 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch


Painting, Dancer, Ewa Hauton


Ewa Hauton

Painting - 100 x 130 x 2 cm Painting - 39.4 x 51.2 x 0.8 inch


Sculpture, Small Sarabanda, Artigas Planas

Small Sarabanda

Artigas Planas

Sculpture - 13 x 24 x 8 cm Sculpture - 5.1 x 9.4 x 3.1 inch