Igniting youth creativity through visual arts expression and community connection

We believe art and creative practice play a crucial role in human development and are an essential part of education for all. Through the transformative power of hands-on artmaking, our Teaching Artists inspire young people to harness their artistic potential and apply it throughout their lives.

We believe in the power of youth voice, active listening, and self-expression without judgment. Because people learn and express themselves in different ways, our approach helps students build confidence and take ownership of their unique ideas.

We believe all humans should be valued, seen, and heard. Our daily interactions prioritize wellbeing, creativity, and balance. When we lead with compassion and heart, we see pressure dissolve and true creative exploration unfold.

We believe all young people need access to art, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. We embrace diverse perspectives, listening first, and working with young people and collaborators with the intention to learn as much as we teach. We commit to ongoing learning and to the advancement of social, racial, and economic equity.

We believe art brings people together and builds belonging and connectedness. By collaborating through artmaking, we gather, share, learn, uplift, brighten, and bring joy to communities.

ArtReach is dedicated to pursuing ongoing inclusion across race, gender, culture, spirituality, identity, age, ability, and experience. We believe all people need access to art, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. We value diverse perspectives, listen first, and collaborate with others to learn as much as we teach. Through art, we are committed to fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion for all. We continuously engage in meaningful internal dialogue to implement measurable changes to our policies, procedures, and programming to meet all of these goals.

Need catalyzed the creation of ArtReach. Sisters Judy Berman Silbert and Sandi Cottrell grew up in a home that nurtured artistic experimentation and in San Diego public schools that encouraged creative exploration. In 2007, severe budget cuts had decimated arts education in schools. Judy had created a school-wide art program called Taste of Art for a local elementary school; Sandi was Managing Director of ArtWalk San Diego. Together they created a program that would provide free art experiences to kindergarten through sixth grade Title I schools. They chose the name ArtReach to symbolize the endless opportunities that artmaking enables.

ArtWalk artists proved instrumental in the launch of ArtReach. ArtWalk Artist Patti Fox helped design a pilot project and taught the first lessons. In 2008, ArtReach offered the first free program at Garfield Elementary, engaging the entire school in the Dream Quilt Project. Students created a “quilt” of images side by side using color, chalk pastels and their own imaginations. 

ArtReach embraces the core belief that all young people have the imaginative capacity to create original art, and that doing so amplifies self-expression and creative exploration. Other founding principles include engaging professional artists as Teaching Artists, supporting and recognizing the work of Teaching Artists, and using grants, individual donations and other fundraising to provide free programs to communities with the most need. This founding Artist Residency Program provides the opportunity to work with an artist through in-class visual arts workshops.

In 2019, the ArtReach Mural Program created space for youth to collaborate with professional muralists to transform the walls around them. In 2023, ArtReach launched Community Programs to serve youth, families, and neighbors with free artist-led workshops during out-of-school hours.

In partnership with individuals, businesses, and foundations, ArtReach has empowered over 75,000 youth to find the artist within.