Carol Hofgartner: Founder and Executive Director of Art Road

As many schools are being forced to cut art programs due to lack of funding, Art Road is fighting to protect students’ access to art in the classroom. Over the past 18 years, Art Road has served thousands of kids, teaching them art skills to express their creativity and learn new skills. Art Road’s instructors are professional artists who are able to bring their passion and talent to young children and spark inspiration.

What inspired you to start Art Road?


Before I started Art Road, I was working in architecture. One of my friends is a teacher and she invited me to her 5th grade class career day to speak about my job. When I went, I brought some drawings that I had made in elementary school to show the students. When I held up the drawings, a student told me that they didn’t have art class at their school. It never dawned on me that kids wouldn’t have access to art. I spent 7 years volunteering in my friend’s classroom to bring art to her students. Eventually, I decided I wanted to expand to reach more kids and that’s when the program launched.


Can you tell me about your in-school program?


We raise funds and hire artists to teach in elementary and middle schools in Detroit. The schools we work in lack art in their curriculum. Each artist has their unique forte and are able to bring that expertise to the kids. They learn about things like photography, sketching, clay, and watercolors. One of our teaching artists did a project with our students to build big fish sculptures out of recycled items from the Great Lakes. They were able to learn about recycling while creating. Our five sculptures were on exhibit at the Detroit Zoo, Toledo Zoo, and Denver Zoo. It showed kids that their art is meaningful and deserves to be seen.


There are so many benefits of having art in schools. What are some of the biggest ones you’ve witnessed?


I know that we are having an impact when kids are crying because they don’t want to leave the classroom. Some kids come in during their lunchtime to work on art and talk about how it’s more fun for them than being on the playground. It’s everything to them. Students crave that creativity. They get exposed to different forms of art and learn how to express themselves creatively. The best part of my job is being in the classroom and making art with the kids. It’s amazing to see the perspective of an artist and how it impacts the students.


Where do you hope to take Art Road going forward?


Pre-COVID, we were working in five schools, but now we are in one. We are serving over 2,000 kids this year. Our goal now is to build back up to three schools. During the pandemic, we used art kits to have virtual lessons. This year, thankfully we’ve been able to be back in school which is wonderful. There is so much need for this, not just in our community but everywhere.