Do Something Awards  Semi-Finalist Meg Bourne founded Art Feeds  because she wanted to help the students in her community improve their self-worth. In 2011, however, local students needed her help more than ever. A devastating tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri and destroyed one-fourth of their town. Meg is helping more than ever as students continue to use Art Feeds as a way to help them express emotions.
1. How did you feel when your first learned of the problem you are addressing?
When I first learned about the problem Art Feeds addresses, it as 2009, I was 19 and volunteering in a behavioral disorder classroom. In this class, one 6 year-old boy wasn’t being fed at home. Due to his home life, he had little self worth or self-confidence. Since art is something I’ve always been passionate about, so I started working with him. From that moment, he flourished. He saw that his art had meaning and worth, therefore he had worth.
2. How do you feel about it now?
On May 22, 2011 at 5:41 p.m one of the nation’s largest tornadoes ever recorded in history ripped through my hometown and Art Feeds headquarters, Joplin, MO. As an immediate response to the disaster, Art Feeds went into children’s homes with art packs to provide tools of expression and began programs in Joplin’s Elementary Summer school. Art Feeds therapeutic art and creative education programs mobilized creative healing with the children of our community. Our programs provided the immediate and long term response Joplin’s little ones needed as a healing mechanism for the trauma they had faced.
3. What person or experience sticks with you from when you first started your project?
That first little boy that started it all sticks out in my mind all the time, he showed me that when simply given the tools, instruction and someone who cared that his life could change tremendously. When he couldn’t write his ABC’s with a pencil, he could paint them with watercolors, where he felt he was nothing, he found worth in his art. I see the individual little artist every day, with every single story, trauma and struggle.
4. Who or what is your inspiration to keep going?
The children that we lost on May 22nd and the children Art Feeds has yet to reach, both in Joplin and worldwide. After the tornado I remember digging for my neighbors in the debris of their house 15 minutes after the tornado struck, one 5 and one 7 years old, praying and thinking that I would do anything for them if I could just find them alive. I pledged that night that I would do everything in my power to reach these children where they were hurting, know the little ones I didn’t know that night, and allow them to move past the trauma they had seen through art and expression.
5. Can you describe the moment you knew that you were actually making a difference?
The first moment as a volunteer in a classroom, working with that little boy and seeing how art affected and changed his life, how art was feeding him was my first major moment. My more recent moment was when a teacher in an Elementary we reach pulled me aside and thanked me for Art Feeds programs. She said her students couldn’t have recovered from the trauma they had faced without the expression, education and love they receive in Art Feeds each week. That was an incredible blessing and a high complement coming from the heroes that are with our students each and every day.
6. What was the most difficult roadblock you faced when you tried to start or grow your project?
The most difficult roadblock I faced when starting and growing Art Feeds was choosing what not to do. I found myself saying “yes” too much to projects and organizations that didn’t fit Art Feeds goals as an organization. Saying yes to too many people dissipated the focus of Art Feeds until I had to have a moment where I asked myself, “What do I want Art Feeds to be in the long term, and how does all of this fit into that?”.
7. What’s been the biggest lesson through the process?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to do what you do very well before adding more programs. As a product of rapid expansion with Art Feeds it was so important for us to create effective programs and models for our students. I could have created Art Feeds as a one time exposure art program and reached an enormous amount of students. But rather we chose to make our programs as sustainable and impactful as possible by reaching the same students on a consistent weekly basis.
8. What has surprised you the most about the journey that has taken you here today?
The generosity of other people when I asked things of them delightfully surprised me. I am by nature a prideful person, so when Art Feeds began it was sometimes hard for me to ask for money, time, or help. I have found that people not only want to give their time, talents, money (and more) to the cause, but they take delight in doing it.
9. What advice do you have for other young leaders who are having a tough time getting their ideas off of the ground?
Keep moving, growing, aching, sprinting towards your goal. A passionate and persistent heart will grow more contagious over time. A quote that resonates with me on this is, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough."
10. What’s next for your project?
By January 2013, Art Feeds will reach every child in Joplin on a weekly basis with our therapeutic art and creative education programs. This will grow Art Feeds programs from 1,300-1,700 students weekly to over 4,400 students. I also plan to expand the Art Feeds model into different communities across the U.S and internationally with an Art Feeds franchise. There will be 1-2 new communities to launch the Art Feeds model by January 2013.
11. If you could have any celebrity film a PSA for your organization, who would it be and why?
This is a tough one. In the running were James Franco and Michelle Obama among lesser known “celebrities” like Ira Glass or Dave Eggers, and many others. But I would have to choose Adele to film a PSA for Art Feeds. Obviously because she has been hugely successful in her art and impacted millions of people with it, but the greatest factor would be how Adele has used her art to express herself. Adele became successful and even drive her through serious issues such as vocal cord hemorrhage. This is an incredible example of art and expression to triumph over difficulties and a great example to our little ones of strength, perseverance and the power of art. Not to mention the Art Feeds little ones love to sing and boogy to Adele’s tunes in the classroom, I would adore for Adele to do a PSA.
What Can You Do?
Learn more about the Do Something Awards  Semi-Finalists.