What Does Free Arts Do?

Free Arts uses art to restore hope, resiliency and self-esteem in children in Los Angeles ages 4-18 who have experienced abuse, neglect, poverty and/or homelessness.

Free Arts creates a safe environment where children can feel, understand and express their emotions and begin to recover and gain a sense of mastery and empowerment.

We pair children with adult mentors who serve as a positive role model with whom the child has a beneficial, rather than traumatic relationship.

Free Arts programs take children through a journey of empowerment, focusing on “Process over Product”. This means that art is a tool for restoring self-esteem, resiliency and hope, rather than Free Arts teaching children to produce attractive or technically sound art pieces.

Art is used as a process to develop and cultivate leadership skills, self-esteem, resiliency, and a belief in a positive future.  Process oriented art includes creating writing, poetry, painting, drawing, or other art.


Free Arts was founded in 1977 to bring art to children in foster homes in order to help them recover from the abuse and trauma they had suffered.

Today Free Arts provides creative arts programs to more than 22,000 children in Los Angeles annually. Programs are implemented by expert trained facilitators with the assistance of nearly 200 adult volunteer mentors, who donate more than 14,000 hours every year. Volunteers must complete a two-day training course based on the program curricula in order to work directly with children.


Children who grow up with abuse and poverty many times unwittingly repeat the patterns of behavior in which they were raised, experiencing mental illness, addiction, abusive relationships, teenage pregnancy and criminal behavior as adults. Most will not go to college and many will never graduate high school, putting their futures at risk.

Hands Rainbow.jpg

Studies show that engaging in art – dance, music, drawing, painting, writing or other art forms – restores resiliency and self-esteem in children and gives them a chance for a better future. Art has been found to uniquely develop certain areas of the brain in children, particularly critical thinking, cognitive function and other skills needed for a successful future.