One Joplin Woman Helps Children Confront Their Fears Through Art

At just 19, Meg Bourne started a project to bring art to children's lives. After seeing the joy art brought to one boy's life, she decided to create "an organization dedicated to mobilizing creative healing and encouraging creative development in children."

While volunteering in a behavioral disorder classroom, she was affected in particular by one small boy who was not being fed at home, which was affecting his life at school.

Meg was impressed by the effect that art had on his behavior and mood and she "saw that art was feeding him in a way that was just as essential as food but art was feeding him and every other student in that class in a different way."

She wanted to spread the joy art brought that boy to all children, and so Art Feeds was born.

The organization's name is 'Art Feeds [blank]' -- the last part of which is left intentionally blank to show that art can feed whatever a person needs it to, and it can be as important to a person's emotional wellbeing as food is to their physical health.

Born and raised in Joplin, Missouri, Meg started taking her art supplies to schools and helping children through therapeutic art and creative education three years ago. She had a van that meant that they could be mobile, which was important because it meant they could "meet the kids where they're at, whether it's at YMCA, boys and girls clubs, or their school."

During the devastating tornadoes that swept across Joplin in 2011, Art Feeds lost their bus, and Meg and one of her colleagues lost their homes. Extreme Makeover saw the need for a program like Art Feeds and with donations from local businesses, gave them a converted Winnebago that would act as their new mobile studio.

They work with schools across Joplin, including programs for children with special needs. The mobile art studio, often called 'Van Gogh' by the students, not only helps Meg move about with her many art supplies, but it provides a space in which the children are able to be as creative as they wish.

The children and teachers alike appreciate the effect that art can have in a classroom. Art Feeds spends time with classes once a week, providing the encouragement and guidance that the children need. They also work with teachers as a way of teaching them new craft ideas but also to allow them to have the creative outlet they need as much as their students do.

As Nila Vance, Principle of Emerson Elementary explains, "Art is a wonderful way to relax but also when you're doing art, you tend to talk more and you can open up about what's going on in your class and share ideas with other colleagues."

The program is 100 percent free of cost for the children and schools. All donations given to the organization go straight to providing for the children, and Art Feeds ensures that they have everything they might need to create their art.

Every child receives an art pack filled with "all the essential supplies: markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, everything they need so they aren't delving into their personal supplies or the school's supplies," Meg explains.

The overheads and other costs that keep Art Feeds running are covered by sponsors and in-kind donations to ensure that the children benefit directly from all the money donated.

Before the tornado, Art Feeds worked with about 500 children per week but since then, it has begun working with around 1300 students of all ages per week. It has helped children to express themselves and cope with the trauma of the event.

Meg makes sure that every child is encouraged as much as possible, and she and the other Art Feed teachers get to know each and every child by name. They build a relationship with the children as well as the teachers to ensure the children feel safe to express themselves freely.

Art Feeds also has a connection to Ghana, started when Meg saw some Ghanaian children's art and realized how important it was for them to have access to the supplies far more readily available to children here. The Ghanaian connection also allows the children in Joplin to learn about Ghana and interact with the children via letters.

It is not hard to see the difference Art Feeds makes and Meg is continually motivated by the organization's effects. We "work with these kids every week and watch them grow, and grow in self-confidence and heal past the trauma they have faced," she says.

To learn more about Art Feeds, go to their website, Twitter, or Facebook page.