In its first four years, Follow Your Art Community Studios has made huge strides in building creative community. See below for some examples of the ways we are making creative experiences available to everyone.
Beyond Our Walls...
We work with organizations, schools, and civic groups
to make the arts accessible to everyone.
It’s not just about painting lessons…
- Our small staff works with over 1,000 children, teens, adults, and seniors every year.
- We’ve rounded out our programs with dozens of classes and special events in creative writing, theater, storytelling, and ceramics.
- We’ve launched Live from the Living Room with author talks, musical performances, and storytelling nights.
- We’ve hosted more than 15 gallery shows highlighting diverse creative voices in our community.
- We collaborate with community partners such as the Melrose Commission on Disability, the Melrose Human Rights Commission, the Milano Center, Friends of Melrose METCO, Artists for Humanity, and others.
- Since 2020, our chalk mural collaborations with local groups have become a staple, providing community connection and amplifying the work of important organizations.
- In 2023 we provided mentoring to our first cohort of Emerging Artist Fellows under the Create Your Opportunity Program for high school youth.
- Upstairs at the Big Yellow House we provide a creative home to more than 25 artists and writers who work and connect with each other and share their work in the community.
- We’ve provided training for educators on creative development in young children.
- We’ve visited multiple schools to share creative programs that complement their curriculum.
- We also host dozens of birthday parties each year!
We actively work to make the creative arts more accessible:
- We’ve given close to $25,000 in tuition assistance for families through our Arts for All program, including over $9,00 distributed amongst more than 50 individuals in 2023 alone!
- As part of Massachusetts’ EBT Card to Culture program, we provide assistance to EBT and WIC cardholders.
- We’ve delivered adaptive services to more than 40 families, providing creative fun for people with special needs.
- We hold free and low-cost community events and public art projects, and creative nights for individuals from different affinity groups.
Diversity and inclusivity in the arts is core to what we do:
- We have intentionally built a Board of Directors that is 1/3 people of color.
- We’ve collaborated with the Foundation Trust to provide multiple visual art and writing fellowships to BIPOC creatives.
- Our storytelling series intentionally focuses on the stories of people from traditionally marginalized groups (to date: BIPOC, immigrants, LGBTQIA, individuals who are disabled)
- We’ve contributed to a permanent rainbow crosswalk in downtown Melrose, annual Pride events, an Art and Snacks program for non-cisgendered youth, and other LGBTQIA initiatives.
- We hold annual art nights for survivors of domestic violence.
- We connected Artist Steve Aldeus with Melrose Historic Commission’s Jim Bennett to create a series on the histories of individuals of color in Melrose.
- Our staff work with SEEM Prep, a high school for youth with disabilities, among other organizations to bring creative projects into schools, nursing care facilities, and daycares.
- Through our Portrait Project, teen artists created 10 portraits of influential people of color, people who identify as LBGTQ, and people with disabilities. These portraits now hang in the main hallway of Melrose High School.
- Our Artist as Witness event featured the work of BIPOC artists from across New England that drew over 100 attendees and donors.
What People Are Saying...
“The growth we've seen in our child since beginning class at Follow Your Art has been astounding. He comes out of art class visibly lighter. We can tell how respected, cared for, and understood he feels... He looks forward to class every week and feels such a sense of pride… watching him blossom as a member of your special community is quite literally a dream come true for us.”
"Watching FYACS grow from an empty house on Main Street to a thriving arts center has been a gift to the City of Melrose! The dedication and hard work of the staff and board got FYACS up and running, and it continues to offer a community for artists and writers to discover their creative side, nurture it, and watch it grow. FYACS's commitment to extending art experiences for all is inspiring, and their vision for the future is exciting. I can't wait to see more!"
"I began taking an adult class to work on my own art with the guidance of Kris in the space upstairs next to Hugo's. Since, moving into the Big Yellow House, I have gained friendships, artful experiences of all kinds, and support in my own art endeavors. I have been teaching a class or two, here and there, over the years making my dream of becoming an Art Teacher come true!"
"To me, FYACS represents a safe and sacred place, where all are welcome, young people of all ages are celebrated and creativity is sparked and sustained. Just walking into the space for painting or ceramics or anything is like taking a deep breath of fresh air. And in these times, it is a place of hope."
"I belong to the writers' studio and I love having dedicated space to work in away from home, and I love the bustle of the creative activity happening in the house."
"FYACS is an increasingly important community hub where children and families can find ways to develop and follow an array of artistic interests and receive instruction, support, and encouragement, whatever their abilities and strengths; there is truly room at the table for everyone."
"Having walked the space with Kris when it was a realistic fantasy, it has grown into a fantastic reality!!! I am honored to be a part of the initial transformation and am thrilled to see how FYA has grown to be an integral creative partner in the Melrose community."
"The Teen Coffeehouse at Follow Your Art Community Studios was maybe one of the best community events I have ever been to...and I have been to a lot in Melrose! So much teen talent in Melrose!"
"The FYA theater program has been transformational for our son. Thanks to a dynamic and inclusive teacher (or whatever is the right word) and the welcoming community of FYA, we’ve watched his creativity and self confidence flourish. He looks forward to class every week and loves getting to be on stage with his peers for the final performance."
"You've created something really special here. This place is a gift to the community."