In the Spring of 1991, a handful of artists got together with youth experiencing homelessness to make art in New York City.

In the Spring of 1991, a handful of artists got together with youth experiencing homelessness to make art in New York City.

Over the past twenty-eight years, Art Start has become an award-winning, nationally recognized model for using the creative arts to transform lives. Art Start programs’ connect historically marginalized youth to Creative Collectives, Creative Connections, and Public Exchanges to imagine, create, believe and represent their visions for their futures.


Art Start uses a student-centered approach to education. Our workshops instill in our youth the confidence to appreciate who they already are and what they innately have to offer the world; then, to think critically, ask important questions, and pursue meaningful opportunities in life – against all odds.

Our creative workshops are structured to support consistency, build resilience, and provide direction to youth going through a time of challenging transition. While encouraging personal development on many levels, by using art and music projects that focus on the outlet for expression, kids are free to build trusting relationships with our teaching artists naturally, learning to open up and bond in ways not possible through the social service or traditional education model. And because Art Start comes to the youth, both in terms of location and circumstance, we’re able to reach them despite the physical and psychological walls built to keep them closed off from the rest of the world.

Though they face many obstacles, our kids have dreams that far surpass their circumstances. They yearn to be participants and make meaningful contributions. Art Start teaches kids how to survive their own lives with confidence, creativity and hope, and transform a time of instability and transition into a time for personal growth and development.


Word about Art Start’s success has also received national media attention. Features about Art Start have been portrayed on: The Oprah Winfrey Show, Bravo’s documentary Stories of Arts for Change, a mini-documentary by two-time Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple and the 2003 CBS special, “Fulfilling the Dream.” In 2009, The Sundance Channel debuted The Hip Hop Project, a feature-length documentary about Art Start’s award- winning music program for teens in crisis. Additional features about Art Start have been published in the New York Daily News, The New York Times, MSNBC’s The Griot, Fox 5’s Good Day Street Talk, and radio stations 107.3 Lite FM, as well as National Public Radio.

Art Start has received the following accolades:

  • President’s Service Award Presented by President Bill Clinton, 1991

  • National Endowment for the Arts Award, 2001

  • Non-Profiteer of the Year Awarded to Art Start Executive Director,
    Johanna De Los Santos, 2010

  • Guidestar Platinum Status

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Art Start’s approach makes the most effective use of the resources available – whether dollars or people power.
— President Bill Clinton