Katie’s Art Project is an incredible non-profit organization that connects children with life-threatening illnesses with artists in their community to create and collaborate on a lasting legacy through art. Not a one time program, it is an organization that strives to connect the artist and child through a project that cannot be created in just one day, but one that takes time to fill a common goal and build relationships. I was fortunate to be able to speak with the President and the founder of the organization, Stephanie Klemons, a Broadway actress, choreographer, director, and educator.
Katie’s Art Project is named after Klemons childhood best friend, Katie, who she met when she was seven. In High School, Katie was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Klemons says, “We spent a lot of time in the hospital. She became an inpatient. Katie’s parents are awesome, and since she was an artist, her dad helped her decorate the room for Christmas and winter.” Klemons was in “In the Heights” on Broadway in 2008 along with her friend Luis Salgado who was forming R.Evolución Latina at the time. With Salgado’s motivation and inspiration, Stephanie Klemons idea became the tangible Katie’s Art Project. The project launched with an art gallery on the Lower East Side to raise money for the organization. Many of Klemons artist friends donated their work. The funds raised from the art gallery went towards Broadway Week at Sunrise Camp (a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings) which was the first venture of Katie’s Art Project.
Katie’s Art Project is currently located in New York City as well as Long Island, and Chicago. The project is beginning to expand to Cleveland, Ohio. Katie’s Art Project has many different projects such as Music is Medicine which pairs children with an artist to collaborate on an original song. Klemons says, “I will connect a musician with a child from a hospital. They meet a series of times and write and record the song together. Then we release it on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and the proceeds made will go back to helping other kids.” Other projects include workshops with an improv coach or a costume designer which last 6-10 weeks, one on one art projects, as well as a new program called Design as Medicine which includes crafty art projects such as room decorating or an art project to take into the patient's room to make with volunteers. Each project is designed differently, but all projects are working towards the common goal of creating art and building long term connections.
The project is funded through a major annual fundraiser and several other smaller campaigns. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation or volunteer for the project, go to the website at www.katiesartproject.org. Klemons goals for the project in the future are to have a larger administrative staff and a New York office.
When asked about using arts as a form of healing, Klemons says that “the biggest thing that always strikes me is that you can have an idea and you can think you know what's possible, and then you put kids and artists in a room, and they make something beyond what could be comprehended. I always say that the result is more magical than what I could have imagined. Creating art gives the kids a way to sift through, express, and process the experience so that they can release space in themselves and continue to grow.”