A community project is helping to instill a love of art in youths around Fountain and Warren county.
Sophie’s Heart Community Art Project works with community organizations in both counties to provide art supply bags to elementary age students during the summer months.
Organizer Sophia Roysdon recently discussed the project’s work and goals.
Sophie’s Heart Community Art Project started in 2020 right after Roysdon had graduated high school and the COVID-19 pandemic had started.
“We kind of saw there were a lot of kids trapped at home with nothing to do,” she said.
Roysdon had already decided to continue her education by seeking a degree in the arts.
Roysdon said she wanted to draw more attention to the art education programs in the area to help the art teachers in the communities in thanks for all they had done for her over the years.
Roysdon went about creating art bags filled with various art-related tools and supplies that kids could occupy their time with and also express themselves during that turbulent time while also spreading information about art education in rural communities.
The project continued to grow from there.
“I didn’t expect it to get as big as it did,” Roysdon said.
She said they have continued to donate art supplies to various programs around the area during the summer months. These include students, home-schooled students and church groups.
Roysdon said these efforts have also allowed the project to educate students on efforts related to recycling, conserving energy and planting Indiana native wildflowers in gardens by incorporating these themes into the art supply bags they hand out.
She said they work hard to ensure that all of the supply bags they hand out have the same supplies in each so that each child gets an equal amount. To achieve this, Roysdon said they generally send out a link to a wishlist in January so that if someone wants to donate they can do so through there.
“We want to make sure everyone gets something equal to each other,” she said.
Roysdon said the project does most of its outreach through Facebook, but word-of-mouth also plays an important role in the rural areas she works with.
“In these small communities, it’s very easy to know everyone, so word-of-mouth helps a lot too,” she said.
Roysdon said anyone interested in the project can always contact her through the Facebook page “Sophie’s HEART Community Art Project” or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roysdon has a strong connection to Fountain and Warren County.
She attended Attica schools for 10 years and Seeger for two years.
“So I was back and forth between Warren and Fountain County,” she said. “So we felt like this was the best place to start. We knew the teachers and the members of the outside programs and the home-schooling programs very well and we knew we could reach out to them and be like ‘Hey this is what we’re doing, would you be interested?’”
Roysdon’s time learning at Attica and Seeger helped her hone her artistic skills and she credits several of the art teachers she learned from for their help including Claudia Paeth, Deborah Held and Laura Greene.
“The thing that stood out to me in general about small town education is that it’s a community effort to make sure that students have the supplies they need and teachers do too so that they can learn in these classrooms,” she said. “And students, no matter what their economic background is, can participate equally.”
Roysdon said while she was in school many of the supplies that students were provided by the teacher’s themselves.
“My art teachers, when my family couldn’t afford things, shared their own supplies from their homes and we all had a chance to create something,” she said. “I felt really inspired from the community effort in that and the effort that my art teachers put into me and knew my passion about this. They just made sure I had everything I needed when I attempted art school at a college level. They fully prepared me and they definitely didn’t allow for any student to think that there wasn’t a career in the arts.”
Roysdon said communities in Fountain and Warren counties have shown a lot of interest in the project.
She said a recent post on the project’s Facebook page generated several requests from community organizations to schedule crafting sessions and to discuss art education.
“The community has been super, super helpful about this,” she said. “The community has been great about supporting this and creating opportunities for me to reach out and talk to students.”
Roysdon said she hopes to expand the program past the elementary level to speak with older students about furthering their art education in college and potentially pursuing careers in the arts.
She also wants to help people understand that art encompasses far more than just painting and drawing.
“This extends past just your traditional painting and illustration,” she said. “It goes into music and literature, I believe those are just as equal in art education as painting and whatnot.”
Beyond this, Roysdon said one of her goals for the project is to eventually establish a scholarship for a student in Fountain County and a student in Warren County that would help them pursue an arts education.
“One goal of mine, since the very beginning when I realized this could be something I do every year, is to create a scholarship for students graduating from the area,” she said. “Right now our goal is $500 for each county for one student and it would go towards an arts education.”
Roysdon said arts education could include anything in choir, anything in band and various other arts.
“I know when I graduated, it was my GPA and other technical things that allowed me to get a scholarship,” she said. “I remember wishing that there was an arts student scholarship so then students that especially thrive in arts education that isn’t math or science would have support somewhere. Even if it’s just to cover supplies or textbooks.”
Roysdon said she appreciates all of the support the community has provided for this project.
“I’m very appreciative of the community, the community’s support,” she said. “There’s definitely, aside from financial support for the arts and creating these bags for elementary students to have arts supplies when they return to school or to just to help them through the summer express themselves, we’re also very determined to take apart the stereotypes that perpetuate there isn’t a career in the arts or there isn’t an industry where people can make a living out of following their passions. A top tier goal of mine is to break down that stereotype that there’s a starving artist when that’s simply not true anymore.”