Fun with Free Arts

Participants in a 2010 Free Arts of Arizona multicultural arts camp

After Phoenix arts therapist Margaret Beresford met with Malibu arts therapist Elda Unger in 1993, she gathered a small group of citizens whose work evolved into an organization called Free Arts of Arizona — now one of a group of four Free Arts affiliates.

Early on, Free Arts of Arizona had just five volunteers serving 60 youth and a budget of $30,000. Today, Free Arts reports a staff of 16 and a million-dollar budget. More than 350 Free Arts volunteers work with more than 5,300 children each year.

Child donning a mask created through a Free Arts of Arizona program

The organization cites a study by the British Columbia School of Art Therapy which indicates that art helps abused and neglected children heal in several ways — enhancing their self-esteem, creativity, expression of feelings, insight and more.

Free Arts of Arizona programs include weekly mentoring, professional artist series, free arts experiences and arts camps. Youth served by Free Arts are currently enjoying multicultural arts camps — and the showcase event being held this Friday is free and open to the public. Think world drumming, spoken word, social dance, visual arts and more.

The showcase, being held at 11:30am on June 17, takes place at Desiderata Alternative High School — located near Thomas Rd. and 35th Ave. in Phoenix. RSVPs to 602-258-8100 or are requested no later than the Thursday before the event.

For more Free Arts of Arizona fun, head to the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix for a free performance of an original work developed by theater camp participants. It’s set for Fri, June 24 at 7pm. 

A teen performs as part of a 2010 Free Arts of Arizona theater camp

The “I was, I am, I will be” production features performance by “20 teens from group homes, shelters and treatment facilities.” The 45-minute work was developed during a two week theater camp experience, and is based on the campers’ “own life experiences.” It’s open to the public, and will be followed by a reception. RSVPs are requested by June 20 to 602-258-8100 (ext 10) or

While you’re at the Herberger Theater Center, pick up a brochure featuring their diverse offerings for the upcoming season. There’s music, dance, theater and plenty more. Take time as well to enjoy local artworks located in the Center’s second-story art gallery.

Folks eager to support the Free Arts of Arizona cause of helping children heal through the visual and performing arts can make a difference in all sorts of ways. Attend their art exhibits and live theater productions to cheer on the children (and those who work with them). Volunteer your time, talent or financial resources. Tell others about Free Arts and their important work.

In the world of making a difference, it doesn’t get more fun than helping kids explore, make and share art. And who knows, you might even enjoy a few therapetic benefits of your own.

— Lynn

Note: Ever feel like there’s a friend or family member you just never get to spend enough time with? Consider volunteering together on a regular basis.

Coming up: Theater geek alert!, Do the math, Art adventures: Gilbert

Photos courtesy of Free Arts of Arizona

Update: This post amends an earlier version which incorrectly noted an additional showcase event–please note that a multicultural camp showcase is not being held on June 24. The June 24 event is a theater showcase as noted above.


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