Cultivating Creativity Through Access to Art

Yesterday, we took a trip to the craft store so that my nephew could pick up supplies to make his new puppet. As much as I detest craft stores, I loved watching his face light up as he encountered random pieces of fabric or even fluffy yarn rolls as they triggered more imaginative thoughts. I could literally sit and watch him all day because I am in awe of how his mind works and how it translates into his fingers. Where our other children were passionate about tumbling, dancing, cheering, basketball and singing, Braeden’s passion is art.

I watch as he dedicates all of his free time to making whatever is in his head. In a “trance like” state, he molds, paints, scraps, recycles and sews. If you catch him at the right moment, his eyes twinkle as he gives character voices to his creations. When he finishes, he’s so excited as if he’s surprised himself at what he was able to make. As much as we love seeing him happy, it’s not lost on me that if we were not financially able to support him, these moments would not be possible. Heck, there are times when we can’t afford the supplies that he needs and in those moments, he turns his creative juices into his digital arena…minecraft…which isn’t a bad thing at all.

As I’ve documented time and again, Braeden’s time in school is spent on test prep. There is no outlet for art. There is no access to supplies at school. There are worksheets…tons of worksheets…zero art.

We knew that Braeden could mold through home play with playdoh so we bought him clay. We knew that he could paint because he had home access to a brush and paints. At the age of 8, Braeden wanted to make his own Halloween costume so his dad taught him to use a needle and thread. That skill led him to making stuffed animals and then led him to puppetry. We saw his talent and made investments at home. The kid who would not speak a word in public for the first 5 years of his life began to come alive through his passion…art. Youtube is his classroom.

Puppets have been Braeden’s therapy I think as his personality shines through. We taught him to publish what he does and I think that publishing is his favorite part. He’s talking in public now and even suggested that we hold an event this summer so that he can set up creative spaces for other kids to either learn how to do what he does or even teach him through their creations. Socially, art has saved him. Two years ago, this is a suggestion that he would have NEVER made and looking back, we could not have predicted this to be his story.

We’re partnering with an organization this summer that has agreed to sponsor Braeden’s creative fair at a junior college in Dallas. We’re moving forward with the notion that it will be accessible to any child that wants to come and create regardless of financial status. Just as a kid who loves to read should have access to books, a kid who wants to create should have access to creative tools.

Braeden is lucky as he is surrounded by friends and family who support him. There are too many kids who do not have this. There are too many kids who have hidden abilities but zero access to the tools and space to unlock them. There are too many kids that have no one to see the brilliance within them.

We’re tossing around ideas about how we can put artistic tools in the homes of kids who need it. Braeden’s idea is to have “creation starter kits” that can be shipped to any child in need at no cost.

Braeden’s Creative Fair is a start.

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