In this installment of the Betabox Educator Spotlight Series, our Operations Manager Sarah sits down with Sade Richardson, founder of Art Intimacy in Raleigh, NC and superstar Betabox Guide.
Tell us about Art Intimacy!
Art Intimacy is a non profit created to increase access to the benefits of arts for youth. We curate culturally relevant, creative, and collaborative arts experiences to improve the mental and educational health of participants and their communities.
Are you an artist yourself?
Yeah, I would consider myself a crafter. I like to repurpose things more than to just create something on a blank slate. I like to paint dresser drawers or decorate books!
What’s your favorite piece of art?
Oh, my favorite piece? That’s tough! I don’t know if I can pick just one. I like all artists in general but I’m a big fan of Jacob Lawrence. He’s one of my favorites because he combines the abstract with real-life situations.
What brought you into education?
I come from a family of educators as well as artists; that’s something that felt natural to me and I’ve been exposed to the arts for most of my life. Sometimes when my mom wasn’t working she would take me to art organizations, or to the museum or to symphonies, because she understood how important that was to me. As a young student, I knew that when I became an adult I wanted to make sure that other students would get the same opportunity, particularly those who wouldn’t normally have access to those types of experiences. So whether it be those from low income households, those experiencing trauma, or it might just be a child with busy parents, but creating experiences for them to be able to develop those skills that come through the arts is important to me. That’s why I got into education and that’s where Art Intimacy developed from.
Do you have a childhood memory from school that stands out?
Being selected to display my art at the NC Museum of Art in the second grade. During this time, my family and I lived at a shelter in downtown Raleigh and art was my therapy. Seeing my piece framed and highlighted, I realized that the arts and education are tools every child should have access to.
We’ve all had a favorite teacher at some point. Who was yours?
My favorite teacher was Ms. Benedict in the first grade. She didn’t just see the potential in me as a student but pushed and pulled it out of me. Ms. Benedict taught me to never count myself out but to remain humble because someone is always watching.
What’s a recent project you’re really proud of?
CAM Raleigh with SPARKcon has been one of the best because so many different children got to experience it with their families. Also, having support from the community organizations was amazing as they helped create the vision that I saw for the event, instead of piecing things together myself, and being able to provide what the children in our community deserve. One of them was a collaboration with a local artist named Lizzie. She did the outline and we came up with the slogan, “Create and Grow. We partnered with Jerry’s Artarama to get the supplies where she facilitated the completion of the art murals. This is when children and their parents came up to paint and add different things to outlines on the mural. Everyone got to put their own creative stamp and come together in this shared space.
Where would you like to see Art Intimacy head in the future?
I would like to see Art Intimacy increasing its impact working with the community and I’m hoping to one day see us in a facility or, at least, become established in a place where people can visit us.
Some of the challenges students face are sometimes feeling overwhelmed or are too shy to answer questions that they can answer. Do you have any insight on how to invoke their participation?
Making sure that each lesson or activity makes room for each child in the way that they learn is key. I remember an activity I did a few years ago, sometime during professional development, and there was a teacher who told me that some of her students were very shy. So, the next day we all checked in for class and I gave everyone the opportunity to say how they were feeling that morning. They could verbally tell us but at the very least had to write on a sticky note. Creating an opportunity for children to express themselves even if they’re not verbally expressive, like writing out their thoughts, helped everyone feel more comfortable with active engagement. Or maybe I’d ease into it by pulling them aside if they’re used to 1-on-1 attention at home. The biggest support is to find a way to reach students where they are.
Art seems so important to you because it’s subjective – you can use visuals instead of words allowing kids to have another medium to express themselves if they can’t articulate their feelings as well.
How do you know you’ve made a positive impact on your students?
Recently I was working with children and as we were wrapping up an activity and this little girl came up and hugged me! She just latched onto me! I must’ve done something during that time that encouraged her. I also get letters and beautiful crafted gifts, like homemade bracelets. I have a giant folder where I keep all of them and these mementos remind me of each time a young artist exercised their potential.
If you’d like to learn more about Sade and Art Intimacy, visit their website at https://www.artintimacy.org/