Community Spotlight on Little Picassos
Joy-filled art classes for kids
Little Picassos is a nonprofit organization that provides free visual arts programs for kids from low-income families. Catering to children aged four to sixteen, Little Picassos teaches a variety of visual art forms, drawing inspiration from artists of color, and uses high-quality art materials. With the support of MYArts, Little Picassos has expanded its programming, enabling the organization to offer transformative art experiences to a greater number of children. Vincent Ogoti, MYArts Public Humanities Fellow, talked with Leora Saposnik, Little Picassos founder, to learn more.
Why did you choose “Little Picassos” for a name?
First, Picasso is an easily recognizable name. Second, we wanted to go beyond Picasso’s belief that “every child is an artist” to provide access to art education.
What inspired you to start Little Picassos?
What inspired me to start the organization was a combination of my two passions in life–children and art–and my family’s history. My father, a child of a single mother (and a professor), had his life transformed by dedicated teachers who believed in him and enabled him to pursue scholarship. Following his passing, I sought to honor him by volunteering at The Road Home in Madison, an organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet. As an artist, I would bring art supplies to the shelter and engage with the children there. One week, I met a family that touched my heart, a mother with four children. Her daughter’s encouragement to expand my efforts pushed me to write grants and develop a program that took three years to come to fruition. Not only did I want to ensure that black and brown children were recognized for their talents, but I also wanted the teachers in our program to be representative of the population we were working with. This approach allowed us to create an organization that honors my father’s legacy while making a meaningful impact on the lives of underserved children.
What kind of art does Little Picassos teach, and do you follow a particular training model?
We teach the children a variety of art forms, drawing inspiration from artists of color, both well-known and lesser-known. Each week, we develop a lesson based on a specific art style, ranging from acrylics to dot painting to spray painting reliefs. We have also explored mosaics, fiber arts, and other creative techniques. One of the key aspects of our program is ensuring that the children have access to high-quality art materials, as we believe this contributes significantly to their artistic growth and development.
Our approach to art training does not adhere to a specific model; we draw inspiration from educational philosophies that emphasize experiential learning. Our primary focus is fostering self-love in the children, ensuring they recognize their talents and gifts. By creating an environment where they feel supported and believed in, we aim to instill confidence in their abilities and help them grow as individuals through the medium of art.
Do you exhibit the art children produce?
Yes! Incorporated into our program is an annual art exhibition showcasing children’s creations. Throughout the year, we save all their art projects and organize a gallery opening at the end of the year, which we held at MYArts and will do so again this year. We invite families, community members, and donors to come and admire the children’s art, which is framed, mounted, and displayed. The event is complete with cake, celebrations, and graduation presents for the young artists. Additionally, we encourage the children to write their artist statements, preparing them for potential careers in the arts. Our program’s primary goal is not necessarily to create the best artists in the world but rather to instill self-belief and confidence in children who may have felt less than or have faced criticism at such a young age.
Do you offer programs in languages other than English?
Yes! We provide our programming in Spanish, with around 40 recorded lessons available in that language. Catering to our majority Latino and African American student population, we strive to make our programs inclusive and accessible to children from various cultural backgrounds.
How do you address diversity and inclusivity in your programming?
In order to promote diversity and inclusivity in our programming, we actively seek partnerships with organizations that serve children from diverse populations. The Road Home is one such organization, and we also collaborate with community centers like the Lussier Community Education Center and Meadowood Neighborhood Center. We also reach out to schools in close proximity to share our program information each year. We aim to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all children, regardless of their background, to participate in our arts-based programs.
Little Picassos’ programming intentionally focuses on underserved children and relies on various funding sources and collaborations to ensure its success. The organization has established partnerships with organizations such as the American Girl Fund for Children, Epic Systems, Dane Arts, Capital Kids Fund, and MYArts. We encourage friends and well-wishers to donate to Little Picassos’ efforts in supporting underserved children in Madison.
Community Spotlight on Little Picassos Joy-filled art classes for kids May 2023 Little Picassos is a nonprofit organization that provides free visual arts programs for kids from low-income families. Catering to children aged four to sixteen, Little Picassos teaches a variety of visual art forms, drawing inspiration from artists of color, and uses high-quality art […]