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At age 7, Adarsh Alphons was expelled from school in India for doodling. At his new school, his drawing was encouraged. “Paint the walls . . . paint the whole school,” the principal told him. A few years later, a school trip led to the opportunity to present a portrait of Nelson Mandela to Mandela himself. “I was only able to do that all because my principal believed in me,” explains Alphons. Now an artist in New York City, Alphons has learned that many students receive little or no arts education – nearly 30% of New York public schools lack a full-time arts teacher.

In 2011, Alphons created ProjectArt, a nonprofit whose goal is to put paintbrushes in the hands of children who don’t have adequate access to arts education. Originally based out of borrowed office space in Harlem, the group now offers classes in 11 public libraries located near schools lacking arts programs, and has been attended by more than 1,000 children. At the end of each semester, the art is exhibited in contemporary art galleries in New York’s art district.

“Our goal is not to create artists. Our goal is to let kids discover themselves,” explains Alphons.