Alyson Walbridge - Special Programs Manager
Through my own experiences at the Art Center (and throughout my life), I have witnessed the positive impact increased accessibility to the arts has on those who are in most need of it. Whether it’s a spark of confidence an ArtReach student expresses during class or a joyous phone call from a scholarship student who received full tuition, I am constantly reminded of the impact the Art Center can have on one person. I support art for all so that I can continue to see these moments come to life and these individuals thrive because of it.
When I was a child, I used creative expression as a way to heal difficult hurts that I could not yet comprehend. As I grew, this means of communication quickly turned from an unconscious practice into an outright passion. I started to find every opportunity possible to make something – anything!
That receipt on the counter mom probably still needs? Well, now it’s a scribbled landscape of numbers and ink. Yes, yes, I know left over house paint isn’t for kids, but what else am I supposed to use? Sorry, but that cute necklace you got me was much more suitable as a part of an elaborate sculpture I’m throwing together in the living room.
There were no classes for me to engage in, no local artists to inspire me, and no money for us to seek other experiences. Nevertheless, I persisted in this way until I finally got to high school where there were, to my immense satisfaction, real art materials. Clay, charcoal, and even acrylic paint! What a dream it was, to have access to proper instruction and a safe space to explore creatively.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on those masterpieces I created as a child. Although they were an accurate description of myself at the time – rough, raw, and messy – I can now imagine how much more I would have gotten out of those creative moments if I had a place like the Indianapolis Art Center.
A supportive teacher would have walked me through the correct way to make a 3D sculpture. The friends I made in class would help me grow by offering critique and advice on my work. My confidence would be boosted by showing my work in the Student Show and maybe, just maybe, someone would buy it! Wow!
I often feel surprised and overwhelmingly lucky by the fact that I am an employee of the Indianapolis Art Center. The exact type of institution I wanted – no, I needed – as a child. And guess what? That’s not even the best part! As a part of my job, I get to give people (including kids just like my younger self) free art classes!
As the manager of Access Art, the Art Center’s scholarship program, I have the opportunity to award full and partial tuition assistance to people of all ages, backgrounds, and passions. I can’t tell you how much I love reading the stories our scholarship applicants write to us about why they want to take a class at the Art Center. My face usually hurts by the end of the day from smiling at so many stories about how “Jimmy loves to draw on anything he can get his hands on”, or that “Jane can’t stop painting! She needs to get into a studio ASAP!”
However, smiles don’t always accompany the process of managing scholarships. I often have to deny handfuls of applications each semester due to lack of funds for our Access Art program. This is hands down the most difficult part of my job at the Art Center. Telling hopeful artists brimming with creativity that they have been denied an opportunity I believe should be accessible to everyone has not been easy. But, it has given me the strength and inspiration to advocate for our scholarship program.
The Access Art applicants are my constant companions. I think of them in all I do at the Art Center. I am thinking of them now, as I tell our students, staff, and faculty that Access Art needs your support. With your help, I can ensure that those rough, raw, and messy creatives get the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and encouraging environment like the Indianapolis Art Center.