Raising Self-Esteem Through Art: An Interview with Apple Arts

By: Saira Malhotra

As we've seen through several artist series here on MarcusSamuelsson.com, art for them tells a story. Whether it's a story of events in their lives or simply as a way to better describe what they see around them. Sometimes art is also used as a way of escaping. Since 2007, an after-school arts program has been helping children here in Harlem do just that, escape into a world of creativity and kindness. The program is called Apple Arts and it works to introduce disadvantaged youths to the world of art and expression.

Last month, I sat down with Margot Leibman, Executive Director of Apple Arts to talk about the Apple Arts program and the projects it is involved with in Harlem. Apple Arts provides free after school art workshops to underprivileged youths and their mission is to "use art to inspire and lift the self-esteem of our youth." As we talked, Margot shared how the company came into being and what it strives to achieve using a very critical tool to meet its objectives: Art!

What inspired the program at Apple Arts?

Apple Arts was founded by 3 people involved in a similar program that lost funding. These people were already working with the kids and founded Apple Arts in 2007. Since 2007, the program has blossomed and the need is far greater than what we can provide for. In addition to the Apple Arts program downtown, we have 3 shelters, 2 are in Harlem and 1 in the East Village.

What are some of the changes you have noticed in the students?

The kids get a chance to open up. The 2 shelters in Harlem are for domestic violence. One of them is an emergency shelter while the other is a tier 2 shelter where the emergency shelter victims are transferred to. When the kids come in, they are traumatized and scared. They have been taken out of their home and feel they are in scary place. Then they get to have fun and form relationships with other kids. As kids find what they are interested in, Apple Arts encourages them through drama, dance, painting, drawing, puppets and embroidery. Apple Arts is very focused on the creative process.

Tell me about the healthy snack program.

The healthy snack program started in 2007 when volunteers noticed that the kids were hungry and couldn't concentrate...this led to the launch of the program. We are always seeking partners in the food and education program and educating kids on healthy eating.

How can people support Apple Arts efforts?

We are always looking for volunteers, teaching artists, guest artists. We welcome financial support, we have low overheads but want a more robust program staff and this requires financing. We are also interested in partnerships and since we are small, we could partner with companies with a similar mission and concern.

What are the projects you are involved with in Harlem and how can the community get involved to support you?

Apple Arts also has shelter volunteer opportunities. The families are in Harlem as it is a safe place for them and no-one will recognize them. But that means, they don't know where to go and what to do. Volunteers can get them out of the shelter and show them around, bring them in to other organizations in Harlem where there may be a pottery class and give them a chance to connect with other families and local resources. There are farmers markets and so many other things they may not know about in Harlem.

For more information about Apple Arts, click here.

Photos: Apple Arts

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