A Free Bird has various programs that bring art therapy to children who are experiencing a cancer diagnosis. A Free Bird has been bringing kids to artistic experiences in New York City for 14 years and has received honors from the city for their impactful volunteer work. The team at A Free Bird is dedicated to creating opportunities for kids to learn and practice art in every form, which sparks joy for the children and their families.
What inspired you to start A Free Bird?
I’m an artist and I started my career in acting, music, and dance. When my voice teacher and her husband both got cancer, I was one of the only people they allowed in their home so I could continue my lessons and sing for them. “A Free Bird” was the title of something I wrote that was about the experience of watching them go through cancer. That experience of seeing the healing power of art is what inspired me to start this. Our mission is to empower kids affected by cancer to find their inner artist. We teach kids how to become an actor, singer, painter, photographer, the list goes on and on. We focus on positivity and how to connect kids with opportunities in the arts.
What kinds of art do kids learn about in your programs?
We want to give kids the best experiences in the arts. They deserve that star treatment, it gives them little moments to think about in their hardest times. We take “art” to the next level in our organization. It’s important to us for kids to be exposed to traditional kinds of art, like drawing and painting, as well as art that they wouldn’t be able to do in a hospital. Things like dance, video game design, acting, photography, musical theater, and more. We focus on five fields of art: drama, creative writing, music, dance, and visual arts. We take kids to fashion shows, art gallery openings, concerts, and other events to help them forget about their diagnosis, have fun, and dream about their futures in the arts. Art gives kids self esteem, it empowers them and brings a smile back to their faces.
Can you tell me about the different program options you offer?
Our three main programs are Dream Big, Take Flight, and Fly Free. We expose kids to different kinds of art and connect them with one-of-a-kind experiences. Take Flight is one on one tutoring, we match kids with an experienced tutor that works in the art field that the child wants to study. Kids can work from the hospital on a tablet or a parent’s phone, or our outpatient program allows them to work from home. For Dream Big, we take kids to do something fun in New York City like museums, shows, and more. In Fly Free, we connect kids to amazing opportunities like walking on the runway in a New York Fashion Week show, selling their art in a gallery, going backstage at a Broadway show, or singing at Madison Square Garden. It gives kids the chance to see themselves in this field as a professional.
What is the best part of your job?
My favorite part is seeing how excited the kids get when we bring art supplies to the hospitals or take them to an artistic performance. It has completely changed my perspective on life. I’m beyond grateful that I’m able to support so many children with my team and give them an opportunity to experience joy. Coming up, we are launching an arts educational video game that will go to children’s hospitals all over the world. It teaches kids how to paint and play music in a video game. We try to meet kids where they are in a format that they’re interested in. We listen to hospitals and Child Life Specialists to make sure that we are giving the best and most advanced opportunities for children that work in tandem with their treatment.