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Art program helps local kids gain confidence and ‘Speak from the Heart’

RICHMOND, Va. -- A summer of discovery for Richmond teens. Within the walls of a building on Marshall Street in downtown Richmond, young people are finding their voice. Art 180 allows vulnerable teens to tap into hidden talents.

In a city brimming with creative arts, the folks at the non-profit say that energy isn’t trickling down to our children. This Art 180 teen studio wants to change that.

Art 180’s Michael Zeltan says developing artistic skills early on helps children express themselves.

“I think it is a stepping stone to other things in your lives,” said Zeltan. “There are lots of ways that kids can learn life lessons whether it’s getting a better skill and vocation.”

Summer programs at Art 180 like “Speak from the Heart” invites teens living in challenging circumstances to create their own theatrical performance using visual art, music and the written word.

“Oh, it is great. It is fantastic. Especially when you get to take part with the kids and you see what they’re doing,” said Zeltan.

Michael Zeltan

Teaching assistant and actress Mikayla Bartholomew said the studio provides teens a platform and mentorship she wishes she had growing up.

“I can’t presume that I know more than they do. Yes, I have more life experiences but they have perspectives that I don’t know yet,” said Bartholomew. “It is the most surprisingly rewarding experience I have had. I am a big believer that art is a big mirror.”

The programs offered encourages conflict resolution and builds teamwork.

Developing their confidence through self-expression benefits them in every aspect of life. For organizers the most satisfying aspect of their jobs is watching teens turn their lives around 180 degrees.

“Yes. There are days I go home and say this is why I do the job I do. This is fantastic,” said Zeltan.

The teens in this particular Art 180 program and their original theatrical performance will premiere on August 19.

Visit Art180.org if you are looking to volunteer.

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