Despite being kicked out of school at age seven for drawing in class, Adarsh Alphons ’06 says that art saved his life.
As the founder and executive director of ProjectArt, Alphons now leads his team with a goal to give kids from under-served areas across the U.S. a safe space to create, giving them access to the same transformative power that artmaking can bring.
ProjectArt, which provides free art education in low socioeconomic areas of major cities across the U.S., partners with libraries, hires faculty and creates a curriculum that allows the progress of each student to be tracked. Classes are offered once a week for a total of 10 weeks. Three times a year, the students have an exhibition.
Alphons was previously a director of visual arts at the Harlem School of the Arts, where his students' love for art inspired his idea.
ProjectArt, which launched in New York City, gathered research from various institutions to assemble information detailing the long-term impact of an arts education. The statistics show that students with a thorough arts education have higher GPAs, get an average of 96 more points on the SAT and are three times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree.
"Children with a thorough arts education are far more likely to be innovators, entrepreneurs and patent owners," Alphons said. "It also prevents dropouts; there's a huge economic impact right there."
Alphons learned the value of an education early on. For the entrepreneur, educator and artist, MICA showed him "...the power of having an amazing teacher that can open children's minds, teach them to take learning into their own hands," he said.
His work has proven to be very fruitful.
Today, ProjectArt offers after-school art classes in Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles in addition to New York.
And in 2015, Alphons was named a CNN Hero and was also selected to represent the U.S. on behalf of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and speak about new and innovative models of promoting social change through the arts. He was named one of the company Pave's 25 "Rising Stars" in March and was accepted as a Columbia Community Scholar. In the past six years, Alphons has created the overall vision and built major support and awareness for ProjectArt, resulting in it being named one of Vanity Fair's favorite charities in 2014.