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Thea’s Art Closet Program Impacts Over 44,000 Arkansas Students in One School Year


Thea Foundation announced the latest impact of its Art Closet program during the 2019-20 school year, reaching over 44,000 Arkansas students in classrooms across the state. Since 2007, Thea’s Art Closet has funded more $1.6 million in art supplies and creative materials to underfunded Arkansas public schools with $100,000 now being the annual budget set for each year. The program allows public school teachers to submit individual project requests for needed supplies up to four times per year through DonorsChoose, an online giving platform, making the arts accessible for students in high-poverty areas and classrooms with little-to-no budget.


“The impact of changing young lives through arts education and creative learning is of course hard to quantify with a number, but reaching this milestone of over 44,000 Arkansas students brings us great hope for the future of education in our state,” said Thea Foundation Executive Director Nick Leopoulos. “With the help of our many donors and the significant support of the Windgate Foundation, Thea Foundation is able to help limit the out-of-pocket expenses for our devoted Arkansas public school educators, who unfortunately end up having to buy their own supplies without our programs.” 


Prior to early school closings in March, Thea’s Art Closet budget for the 2019-20 school year was over 90% spent. Achieving these results, even with early school closings due to the pandemic, truly reinforces the need for statewide programs to support Arkansas educators. While the program does continue to fund a high number of projects at schools in the central part of the state as well as other areas, Northwest Arkansas, particularly schools in Washington County, remain the top region to receive support from Thea’s Art Closet with 80 projects funded during the most recent school year. 

In total, Thea Foundation fulfilled 226 Art Closet projects. With matched support on DonorsChoose, over $204,000 worth of projects in Arkansas schools were funded. This translates to impacting 44,584 students and supporting 136 public school teachers across the state. Through school visits and ongoing communication with K-12 teachers, Thea Foundation is able to better understand the needs of Arkansas educators and their independent approaches to advancing curriculum to best fit their students and foster creative thinking.

In addition to these incredible program-specific results, Thea Foundation has recently met their $50,000 Challenge Match thanks to donor support received since the beginning of May, when the donor campaign was launched. The Windgate Foundation had previously committed $50,000 for Thea’s upcoming 2020-21 Art Closet $100,000 annual budget. Since 2009, the Windgate Foundation has donated over $4 million to Thea Foundation with roughly $500,000 in support of the Art Closet program. 


The need for Thea’s Art Closet expands each year as more and more Arkansas educators become aware of the available resource, which is only limited to arts-specific teachers at the high school level — all public school teachers starting at kindergarten through middle school can request for supplies. With the new school year beginning in August, the organization hopes to continue to receive donations for its statewide programs in advance of being inundated with project requests during the first week of class. 


To support Thea Foundation’s mission, visit theafoundation.org/donate or contact Jennifer Owens Buie at jennifer@theafoundation.org or by phone at (501) 951-0374.

About Thea Foundation

Thea Foundation’s mission is to advocate the importance of the Arts in the development of our youth. Three programs are implemented statewide to support this mission—Thea Scholarships, Art Closet and Arts Reconstruction. Since 2002, Thea Foundation has awarded more than $2.4 million in scholarships to Arkansas students and provided more than $1.6 million in art supplies and creative materials to underfunded schools through our Art Closet program. In addition, Arts Reconstruction is our focused effort to help teachers receive professional development and supplies to enable a better platform to advance in their own careers and schools. Our collective aim is to enrich young minds through the power of the Arts as research continues to show the many cognitive benefits of arts education. Named for the daughter of Paul and Linda Leopoulos, Thea Foundation carries on the legacy of Thea Kay Leopoulos, who thrived academically, socially and emotionally thanks to her artistic pursuits. More at @TheaFoundation or Thea Foundation Blog.