Arts Refreshing the Soul (A.R.T.S.) uses the arts as a tool to raise the academic, social and emotional potential of at-risk women, children and youth.

A.R.T.S. inspires participants to actively:

The Need

Arts education makes a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child and has been proven to help level the “learning field” across socio-economic boundaries.

“Research suggests that preschool only benefits children from disadvantaged families…”

– “If You Are Reading this Article, Your Kid Probably Doesn’t Need Preschool” by Melinda Wenner Moyer. Posted Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 in

20% of all families in Cook County with children 18 yrs. and under live below the poverty level.

– U.S. Census Bureau 2009-2013

In Northwest suburban Cook County, which includes high school districts 207, 211 and 214, there are 55 percent more homeless students than two years ago. In DuPage and Lake counties the numbers have risen by more than 35 percent.

– Daily Herald 2/28/14

10 million children are exposed to domestic violence annually in the US.

– The Center for Women and Families

Arts can improve academic performance. Research by James Catterall at UCLA and others has shown students engaged in the arts perform better academically. Students maintain higher grade point averages and standardized test scores and lower dropout rates—across all socio-economic strata.

 – Cohen, Randy and Roland J. Kushner. “An Annual Measure of the Vitality of Arts and Culture in the United States.” National Arts Index. Americans for the Arts, 2009. 1-11.

The Impact

A.R.T.S. has reached over 1000 at-risk women and children this year alone!

From our client questionnaires given at different intervals over several weeks we found:

99% of moms say the class was worth their time
98% say they will come back the next week
99% say they will encourage other moms and their children to come to A.R.T.S. classes
99% say that music and art are important for young children

When asked if music and art class is having a positive effect, 97% say it helps with emotions, 97% say it helps with skills they will need for school, 97% say it helps my child interact with others socially, and 100% say it develops new skills overall.

78% say they couldn’t afford a class like this in the community ($250 value per 10-12 week session)
22% gave no answer
95% say they would enroll their child in a class like this in the community if they could afford it.

See the impact through our stories. Read now.

Mothers describe why A.R.T.S. classes are so important to them and their children.

What is the purpose of A.R.T.S.?

Arts Refreshing the Soul’s (A.R.T.S.) primary goal is to help at-risk women and children reclaim their voice/power/self-worth through educational, creative arts programming, using the arts (music, dance, and visual art) as a catalyst to provide a positive environment that promotes healing and develops a renewed sense of hope and possibility that can have a profound impact on their lives. A.R.T.S. strives to inspire change for women and children who are underserved and find themselves in situations of abuse, poverty, or homelessness who have forgotten or have never known they have the power inside themselves to change their life situation. Part of this empowerment comes from using and practicing parenting skills in a hands-on situation that is creative, interactive, friendly and non-threatening. This can create a positive feedback loop between the child and parent and other community members in the class which will be reinforced at weekly arts classes and can continue outside of A.R.T.S. classes.

Integrated art, music and dance lessons will be used as tools to help empower women & children to access their power, inner voice, and beauty.

A.R.T.S. classes will also be used as a way to introduce preschool concepts and pre-literacy skills for the children who may never have the chance to attend preschool. A.R.T.S. classes will provide the mothers of these young children with a glimpse of the importance of preschool and exposure to creative interactive activities they can do at home to help their children gain those skills if they can’t afford to send them to preschool.

Expressing themselves through the arts will not only enable women and children to gain courage and confidence in their own voice (literally or figuratively), but also provide ways to practice being creative in a safe communal environment, which in turn can spur creative problem solving in their own lives.

Through active participation and doing, A.R.T.S. programs will give a glimpse of how to use intuition and trust in their own voice to reach outside themselves to accomplish goals they have created for themselves through their domestic abuse/parenting counseling programs and/or moving out of poverty/homelessness into community living.

A.R.T.S. is a supplemental program which partners with shelters to enhance the goals that shelter/recovery centers are trying to accomplish by addressing the whole person as an emotional, lovable, spiritual and physical being.

We hope to infuse educational preschool learning concepts, meaning, joy, healing, discovery, bonding, and creative excitement into the shelter’s recovery program, thus increasing the chance for successful overall completion of the program.

What are some of the problems A.R.T.S. is trying to solve?

A.R.T.S. classes will focus on rebuilding self-esteem, confidence, expression, and joy through singing, painting, movement, playing instruments, drawing, and creating projects to begin the healing process from emotional pain and/or loss of voice.

  • A.R.T.S. will come to the women and children in a safe environment via their shelter site so they can bond with each other in a joyful way without fear or interruptions.
  • Participation in the arts can help bring out those women and children who are withdrawn, shy, or have a difficult time functioning within social situations.
  • A.R.T.S. provides a venue for reconnection to each other and the community through involvement in group situations, creative problem solving on group projects, inspiring children to get involved in arts groups at their schools, and promoting self-expression and trying new ideas within a group setting.
  • Arts involvement helps spur women and children to find the power to change their life situation and the world they live in for the better.
  • A.R.T.S. addresses emotional healing as an important component of making lasting change. Emphasis will be placed on actively engaging in the processes of creating, participating, and performing to involve the whole person. As they engage, children learn they can observe, organize, and interpret their experiences. The arts experience becomes a source of communication and interaction. It connects the heart to the healing process.

How is A.R.T.S. different when compared to other organizations or programs addressing the same problem?

The community social service agencies we work with address basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter for low income families and those recovering from domestic violence, but we believe the arts continue to be a crucial missing component in a mother and child’s recovery from domestic abuse and/or poverty and needs to be included as part of the holistic recovery plan. Plus, young children (0-6) are almost never addressed educationally or creatively in these situations.

To our knowledge there are no other organizations in the Chicagoland area addressing this concern in quite the same way as A.R.T.S. When working with the at-risk population, it takes many different types of intervention and supplemental supports to actually make a difference in whether a person will be successful in healing and/or in awakening to a newfound understanding of their potential and possibility so they can truly move beyond their crisis situation.

Food, shelter and clothing meet immediate basic survival needs, and are without a doubt needed, but A.R.T.S. tries to plant the seeds of self-actualization to complement the survival needs and counseling the shelter provides. We realize all of these components are necessary and needed to a complete healing and recovery process, and that is the reason we will always work in collaboration with other social service agencies, but the key difference between other organizations’ missions and ours is our focus on the young child (0-6), school readiness and pre-literacy behaviors and skills, and creating joyful opportunities for mother/child bonding through the arts.

This is where A.R.T.S. comes in. We meet kids where they are already receiving services, and we can fit within any social service agency model. By using arts as a tool, we can provide essential programming that ties many different services together with an appealing, non-threatening enrichment experience.

“Shelter and recovery, education and training are essential, but lasting success requires emotional healing. Art empowers, transforms and rebuilds from the soul out.”

Kim Stadler
Executive Director, Arts Refreshing the Soul (A.R.T.S.)

We offer many ways to contribute to the A.R.T.S. mission. Find the way that best suits you!  LEARN MORE