In accepting an Oscar for Pixar’s Inside Out, Minnesota-raised film director Pete Docter had this advice for young people: “There are days you’re gonna feel sad. You’re going to feel angry. You’re going to feel scared. That’s nothing you can choose. But you can make stuff, make films, draw, write. It will make a world of difference.”
That’s the very message Art Buddies has been bringing to Twin Cities elementary school children for more than 20 years. Annually, the program pairs 200- plus inner-city children with creative mentors from various professional fields, including architecture, advertising, and design.
For many students, this is the first time they’ve learned about these creative careers—much less collaborated on an art project. “We show them that creativity is a skill that can be used throughout their lives as a path to success,” says Art Buddies president and executive director Scott Mikesh.
In addition to fostering creativity and an interest in creative careers, Art Buddies mentors often give confidence to students who haven’t done well in traditional classes. “There was a shy little boy whose mentor struggled to get him to talk or answer questions,” says Mikesh. “In the end, he got up in front of 60 people and talked until he was blue about the 3D dinosaur he’d made.” Each Art Buddies session culminates with a parade of the young artists through a local school where costumes and projects are displayed to peers, teachers, and parents.
Art Buddies was founded in 1994 by award-winning designer Sue Crolick, who was the first female art director at two of the largest advertising agencies in Minnesota. “I had a dream of tapping the fantastic talent of our Twin Cities creative community, and putting it to work for kids in need,” she explains. This year Crolick’s vision began to go national when a Texas chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the association for design professionals, began offering Art Buddies in Dallas as a licensed program partnership. Art Buddies hopes to pair with similar creative organizations to bring the program to even more kids.