JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin resident Meg Bourne and her children’s art program, Art Feeds, have been selected as a finalist in the national Do Something Awards program, which will award a winner next month with a $100,000 grant.
Art Feeds, a nonprofit organization, encourages what Bourne calls “creative healing.” She and her staff and volunteers provide up to an hour’s worth of free art instruction to elementary school-age students, particularly those who are affected by trauma, disability or other obstacles, each week at schools and afterschool programs in Joplin.
The Do Something Awards are given to young adults by DoSomething.org, an online social platform for teenagers. The group plays host to the awards annually to “honor the nation’s best young world-changers,” according to its website.
As one of five finalists, Bourne, 22, has already won a $10,000 grant that she said will cover her expenses at one elementary school for an entire academic year. The winner of the second round of the competition, which is determined in part by online voting, will receive a $100,000 grant.
Bourne said that amount of money would buy enough art supplies to help her reach every young child in Joplin. She said she would also be able to hire more staff and extend Art Feeds into communities beyond Joplin.
“Ten thousand (dollars) is monumental for us; $100,000 — game-changer,” she said.
The idea for Art Feeds came to Bourne about three and a half years ago, when she was volunteering in a classroom of students with behavioral disorders. One boy caught Bourne’s attention because he was struggling so much.
“As a child, art was a really big part of my life, so I thought, ‘I’ll just do art with him,’ and he grew tremendously,” she said. “Art Feeds became the name because art was feeding that little boy in a way that was as essential as food.”
In the beginning, Bourne was reaching 500 children per week through Art Feeds, she said. Last summer, after the May 22 tornado, she worked with about 2,500 children as she moved her program through summer school and temporary shelters, she said.
“The kids were getting therapy without realizing they’re getting therapy to help with the trauma they’ve faced,” she said.
At the end of the academic year in May, Bourne was working with 1,700 children each week. When school begins in August, she’ll have 3,800 children on her roster.
“If I’m working too much in the office, I’m really down,” she said. “As soon as I go work with the kids, I’m on fire again.”
Recent art projects include creating a mural at Irving Elementary School and making calming jars, which are small containers filled with glitter that the children can shake when they need to be calm.
Bourne and her students also “rebuilt” Joplin. They first sketched the buildings they wanted in their version of Joplin: their homes, schools, churches and favorite restaurants, plus several new perks such as a zoo and an amusement park. One boy built an entire apartment complex “for everyone who’d lost their home,” Bourne said.
Bourne then put large empty cardboard boxes in front of the students, who painted them as the buildings from their sketches. When the paint was dry and the boxes were set up, a new skyline for the city was born. The project was displayed during a recent Third Thursday Art Walk in downtown Joplin.
“They were empowered in their own ideas and took control over a situation that they otherwise wouldn’t have control over,” Bourne said.
A link to vote for the Do Something Awards can be found on the Art Feeds website, artfeeds.org/dsawards. The awards show, in which the winner of the $100,000 grant will be announced, is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Aug. 21 on VH1.