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VH1 Do Something Finalist Meg Bourne and Art Feeds Nourish Children through Art

by Kelsey Manning | University of Notre Dame

F Posted in: Sports and Culture P Posted on: August 23, 2012
meg bourne artfeeds do something cover Facebook, ArtFeeds

In a span of just three years, VH1 Do Something award finalist Meg Bourne turned her inspiration for helping one child express himself through art into an award-winning nonprofit. Bourne’s Art Feeds will be helping 3800 children this coming fall.

“Art Feeds wasn’t predetermined in any way,” Bourne said. “I was volunteering in a behavioral disorder classroom about three years ago and there was a little boy in the classroom who was lethargic; he had trouble concentrating in school and he had low self worth. And I found out that he wasn’t being fed at home. So we got that problem taken care of through other systems, but I just thought, ‘What can I do for him not only in terms of his nourishment needs but helping him cope with what was happening at home?’”

Drawing on her own experiences with art as a child, Bourne brought in her own supplies for the boy, a move that was met with incredible success.

“His growth was tremendous,” Bourne said. “He could paint his ABC’s when he couldn’t write them. He was actually really great at watercolors and I could see him painting these things and going, ‘This has worth, therefore I have worth.’ Or he was communicating things that were happening at home that he wouldn’t otherwise say out loud. And so the concept ArtFeeds comes from him and not being fed at home, but art feeding him in a way that was just as essential as food.”

Art as therapy is seemingly a simple concept, and yet its’ effects can be extraordinary. And as Bourne’s brainstorm started bringing in requests from other teachers in the Joplin, Missouri school, it became clear to her she had found an area of need. So the 19-year-old took her $200 paycheck, printed up some shirts, and Art Feeds was born.

Now, Bourne’s work has been recognized by Do Something, the organization dedicated to teens and social change that named her as a finalist for its annual Do Something Award, which comes complete with a $100,000 grant for the charity.

While the big prize at the award show Monday went to finalist 24-year-old Katie Gomez, founder of Educate2Envision, Bourne said the experience was invaluable. Meeting celebrities like Ben AffleckBeyonce, Chris Bosh, and Kristen Bell was definitely a perk, she said. However, the benefits were far greater than that, particularly in terms of exposure for ArtFeeds.

As the awards were broadcasted on VH1 Tuesday night, it is no surprise Bourne and her colleagues were up much of the night fielding questions, comments, and a flurry of praise and admiration via email and social media. In addition to getting the word out about Art Feeds, Bourne said the process was a great learning experience.

“The awesome thing about Do Something is that they create this experience so that we would all know each other,” she said. “So beginning with semi-finalist weekend when we were all interviewed back in June, we were all flown out together and did everything together – we did our interviews together, we had dinner together, did boot camp together.”

“It’s really amazing to get to known other people my age doing these causes because we’re all in the same place where we’re really passionate about something but we’re still figuring it out. We all have things we can learn from each other and it’s been a really great growing experience from the standpoint of getting to the semi-finalists and finalists.”

Bourne’s personal story is one that pulled at the heartstrings of viewers, as they remembered May 22, 2010, when one of the largest tornadoes in the country’s history ripped through her hometown of Joplin, Missouri. She lost her own home, the Art Feeds van she had been working out of, and tragically, two of the children she worked with. But she wasted no time getting back to work, realizing that in the face of such destruction, there were thousands of more children she might be able to help.

“Before the tornado, we worked with about 500-800 children a week, and then after the tornado we had this platform to help all the children in Joplin, because our programs could be used to help traumatized children with the trauma they had faced, ” Bourne said. “So we jumped from 500-800 to this year, when our program starts in a couple of weeks we’ll be reaching 3,800 kids per week.”

Art Feeds has now helped over 11,500 children, and that number only continues to rise.

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Kelsey Manning Kelsey Manning Kelsey Manning is an NGJ Managing Editor and a rising junior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in Italian. You can follow her on Twitter @kelseyMmanning.

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