Art courses

This 11-year-old Ann Arbor wrote a grant, built art kits and ran classes for kids

ANN ARBOR, MI — Eleven-year-old Mariel Gupta developed a love for art at a young age, so when she saw an opportunity to help other kids discover that same passion, she jumped at it. opportunity.

Mariel has two ambitious older sisters who spent their teenage years starting their own non-profit organization, By Kids4Kids, to help increase children’s literacy rates by distributing Kindles and pairing children with virtual reading buddies.

Mariel saw an opportunity to follow in their footsteps, while spreading her love for art through her own project, ArtsKits4Kids.

Mariel’s vision was as ambitious as that of her sisters: to create art kits made up of materials from different art mediums, to create a 10-week course curriculum taught over Zoom by 25 volunteer art teachers from across the country and write a grant application. to fund it.

“I’ve been doing art since I was little and I’ve always loved watercolor – it’s my favorite,” said Mariel, who is a student at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Ann Arbor. . “I thought other kids should be able to experience it because they might find a love for it but they might not have access to it.”

After some review of her application and an interview process, Mariel won a $2,000 stipend grant from Hillshire Farms and Youth Service America, who established the grants to help kids bring their ideas to life to create positive change in their neighborhoods and schools.

“I was like, ‘This is a huge undertaking, this is a big project,’ but Mariel insisted that she really wanted to do something with art,” said Toni, the mother of Mariel. “Obviously at that time I was extremely proud that she was able to come up with this idea for ArtsKits4Kids, but now, as a parent, I was like, ‘We really need to make this happen. .

After securing grant funding, Mariel, her mother, and other family members set to work purchasing art supplies and assembling more than 60 art kits that included canvas, paper origami, plasticine packets, watercolor paper, sketchbook, acrylic and watercolor paints and other supplies.

Mariel created a Google sign-up form and flyer which she distributed throughout the community, including Bryant and Northside Community Centers and online, seeking children interested in participating in the 10-week course before starting. send and distribute the kits over the next six to eight weeks.

Now in the final week of the 10-week course, Mariel has seen the fruits of her labor with 30 students regularly attending weekly Zoom sessions on Sunday afternoons and two online classes over the Easter and Feast weekends. mothers.

Toni Gupta said she was proud of all her daughters for taking the lead in providing educational opportunities for children.

“(My daughters) Meghan and Madeline took many initiatives on their own to come up with different projects during their younger years,” she said. “With Mariel growing up in this home, she always helped and participated with them. I think it was quite natural for her to create her own. Obviously, I always help my children, but I always let them go with their own ideas.

During the 10-week course, Mariel worked with volunteer instructors from Wyoming, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Michigan who expressed interest in teaching after seeing the flyer online to create lessons that help children hone their artistic skills.

Feedback from participants has been positive, Mariel said, noting that she plans to apply for an additional grant to run another 10-week course next spring.

“Whenever someone gets a kit they always tell us how awesome they are and how much they love all the supplies and I think they really do,” she said.

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