Emily Lewis won a full scholarship to Parsons, but it was a very different route than usual for her to get there. Emily was a high school drop out. She was addicted to drugs. Luckily, she met a mentor at a homeless shelter and was able to take control of her life again.
Her mentor, an employee at the homeless shelter was almost not permitted to start the art therapy program that pulled Emily back on her feet. The director only believed they were there to put a roof over people’s head, not to give them every amenity.
Luckily, with a lot of hard work and self trust, this program was created, and Emily joined in the fall of 2008. She soon was hired as the intern of the therapy program. She had never painted before that, but the directors of the program saw a special magic in her.
The director of the homeless shelter has changed her tune on art therapy. She now understands that you have to feed the should and the bodies of people for them to succeed. It is easy to overlook programs like this, but once you see their success in action they are impossible to ignore.
Emily was encouraged to apply for art school by an art collector from Princeton. This art collector saw Emily’s work at an art show and purchased six pieces, some of which are worth thousands of dollars. This collector encouraged her to do something she never even thought about- apply for art school. The collector helped her create a portfolio, get her GED and take the SAT. She was accepted on her first try on a full ride scholarship.
All it took was a community believing in her and the power of art to get Emily a new future. What could happen with a program like this in your neighborhood?
Crystal has been coming to AFTS Open Studio for more than 5 years and tries to attend once a week “so that I feel like I’m doing something - life’s not just passing me by. I have something to look forward to.”
“Life can draw you away from your real talent, and AFTS helped me rediscover an old talent. [AFTS] gave me the opportunity to rekindle that talent.”
During these times of lock down, social distancing and increasingly less human connection, we are determined to bring our artists and others experiencing homelessness an opportunity for self-expression and creative relief to combat the increasing risk of depression and isolation.