For 19 years, Thea Foundation has made great strides in advocating the importance of the arts in the development of Arkansas’s youth. It has been a tremendous honor to work alongside my parents (Thea Foundation's co-founders) for the past 9 years as I’ve been able to help further our programming in honor of my late sister, Thea Kay Leopoulos. I know the work we’ve done has impacted thousands of lives, and when I encounter a new individual with a Thea story, their gratitude feeds my continual state of appreciation for the leadership role I now have serving as the Executive Director.
The arts are so vital to a truly enriching K-12 education, and we work diligently to reverse the trend in education of devaluing the arts in schools. Although this is a nationwide issue, we are addressing this situation in our state strategically through our programming. Thea Foundation's efforts will have a long-lasting impact on countless young Arkansans no matter what field of study or career paths they choose later in life. Three programs are implemented statewide to support Thea’s mission—Thea Scholarships, Art Closet, and Arts Reconstruction.
Thea's longest-standing program, our scholarship program, now awards 36 annual scholarships from our six arts-based competitions: visual arts, performing arts, creative writing, fashion design, film and slam poetry. Thea Foundation recently added 3 additional scholarships in the creative writing and spoken word/slam poetry competitions. This translates to an increase in awards to $97,400 and a total of 36 annual scholarships we are proud to provide to deserving Arkansas high school seniors who truly inspire us every single year the competition season takes place.
In addition, Thea's Art Closet continues to grow to assist our educators and students in public schools. During the 2018/19 school year, we granted 145 projects across Arkansas in 88 different public schools to support creative learning for our state’s youth. Thea's Art Closet is moving forward in 2019/20 and will fund $100k in projects, which provides teachers up to 4 opportunities per school year to submit their project needs for art supplies and creative materials.
Thea’s Arts Reconstruction continues to host professional development training, in partnership with the UA-Little Rock’s Windgate Center for Art + Design, every summer. An expansion of visual arts training provides public school teachers the opportunity to receive professional development via learning a new visual arts medium to enable a better platform to advance in their own careers and schools. This training includes a large stipend for materials in support of the new mediums Arts Reconstruction teachers learn.
We are incredibly appreciative of our Board of Directors, who helped us make these enormous decisions and leaps forward. Our Board is passionately dedicated to helping our foundation grow its programs as well as grow financially in order to impact more young Arkansans each year.
In closing, I want to express my appreciation for our supporters. It goes without saying (almost) that we would not have achieved our programming as it stands without the relationships we’ve built and nurtured over the past 19 years. Thea Foundation is having its greatest moment to-date right now as we are able to be a resource to more schools, educators, and students now than ever before. This momentum is what I feel my talented team and myself attached to as we look forward to enriching as many young lives as we possibly can through the power of the arts.