I am an artist, muralist and interior designer. A few years ago, I moved to Las Vegas for work to find that the arts had been taken out of the classrooms there, in a school system that was dead last in the nation.
While wealthier neighborhood schools still have arts programs, under-resourced schools do not. So I volunteered to teach art to children, especially those with disabilities. After a while, I thought: why don’t I start a nonprofit? My new organization is called The Arts Empower focused low-income children, particularly children with disabilities in the public schools.
One of my mentors in this process was actually a 26-year old woman named Nicole Zaagman, founder of LuxChix.com, a company that helps women, some twice her age, figure out what’s next. She helped me take the story of my life and what I’ve done and apply it to creating this nonprofit.
Although I am 26, I work with women over 50. My ideal client is a mature woman with life experience. I resonate with her spirit and cherish her life experience. I learn from each of these women as much as they learn from me. I help them use their past experiences to create, design and market a “heart-felt” business, social enterprise or nonprofit.
Laurie was a part of our four-week group coaching program called Discovering Your Brand Story®. As a result of our working together, Laurie very quickly had the confidence to move forward in pursuit of her encore, with a clear mission statement and a new logo to represent her non-profit.
In grade school, art was my favorite class. My parents were told by my teachers that I was shy. But I never felt that because, in art class, I could express myself. That’s what I want for the children I work with. There’s a lot of research coming out showing that, without opportunities for creativity, everything from reading to grades is affected.
Through my nonprofit, I’m working with teachers to develop lesson plans for using iPads for art, giving the children skills in technology and art, as well as reading, which they like better when using the iPad. In these schools, parental involvement is often lacking. So we are launching a mural project to get families involved. The students are so proud of themselves when they finish what they are working on.
I got into this work with women after a health crisis I experienced. I affectionately refer to this time in my life as my mid-life crisis. Something that affected the physical appearance of my face as well as the delicate psychological impression I had about myself. I realized there are other women in the world that have, in one point in time, felt alone and unconfident as I did. I don’t see or view age. I see life experience. You’re never “too old” to follow your dream, my clients prove this everyday!
There have certainly been challenges along the way. I am funding this nonprofit right now with my own money and writing grant proposals to sustain it. But what I am doing now – exposing children to art they would have never seen, and giving them a creative outlet – that is a calling for me.