Artists First

Artists First's mission is to foster growth in adults with disabilities, youth and Veterans through creative self-expression, while enriching our community through initiatives that promote art and create acceptance and empowerment throughout the region.

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Address: 7190 Manchester Road
Maplewood, MO 63143
Phone Number: 314-781-4440
Together we can build a thriving community for all.
When you donate to Artists First, you can be confident that we are a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization in Good Standing with the State of Missouri and that our organization has earned a Platinum Star - Seal of Transparency, via GuideStar, the industry authority on nonprofit excellence. You also can be confident that 80 cents of every dollar goes directly to those we serve.

Who Does Artists First Serve?
Artists First serves disenfranchised individuals including adults with disabilities, youth with and without disabilities, and Veterans in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and in the greater metropolitan St. Louis area.
Artists First accepts all participants regardless of age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity. Artists First maintains an inclusive and accepting environment.

What Does Artists First Do?
Artists First uses a creative approach that allows for genuine community integration and furthers the personal and financial growth of over 200 disenfranchised individuals annually. The Open Studio Program is an especially unique, multifaceted community resource that provides economic opportunities, fosters self-sufficiency and promotes cultural / artistic enrichment in the community. The Open Studio has 4 components: The Adult Open Studio provides adults with disabilities with professional supplies and technical facilitation by specialized staff. The program fosters growth and self-determination. Youth with and without disabilities in the Youth Open Studio create artistic pieces while exchanging cultural values and ideas. The youth make art, socialize, and work with others while learning about diversity and other issues. The Youth Studio promotes the concept of art as an avocation open to everyone as well as a vehicle for understanding and respect. Lifeworks is a customized-supported employment program that develops essential career, independent living and self-sufficiency skills through the arts. Lifeworks provides professionally-minded artists with disabilities the opportunity to pursue and build careers in art. Staff collaboratively identifies employment goals and develops a realistic action plan with participants. Artists with disabilities are empowered in developing their own road map to meaningful employment opportunities through creative self-expression. Through career coaching, employment skills such as communication and self-advocacy are advanced for participants. Artists First facilitates financial empowerment for the participants by vigorously seeking out opportunities to market and sell participants' artwork. Artists First for Veterans supports the development of positive self-identity, self-expression and community reintegration through the arts for current and former Armed Service members. Artists First has partnered with the evidence based program Opening Minds Through Art (OMA). Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) was founded by Dr. Elizabeth "Like" Lokon in 2007 and is grounded in person-centered care principles. It is headquartered at Scripps Gerontology Center, an Ohio Center of Excellence at Miami University. OMA is an intergenerational visual art program for people with memory loss. OMA participants create works of art on a weekly basis, while paired with volunteers who are trained to rely on imagination instead of memory and focus on remaining strengths instead of lost skills. OMA enables people with dementia to assume new roles as artists and teachers and leave a legacy of beautiful artwork. The art projects are failure-free, and allows participants to show others the creative self -expression capacities of people with dementia. An exhibit highlighting the participants work is held at the end of the 8-week session.
"When she leaves the youth studio she is a different person - smiling ear to ear..." parent of youth program participant

"I feel really good, proud of myself because I am a better artist than what I was." adult program participant

"When I walked into this studio for the first time . . . I realized I finally found a place where I belong. Where I can be myself." adult program participant

"I never thought I could do art as a job before - I love it!" Lifeworks program participant

"The Artist First program opened numerous doors for my client. She has grown to live independently (which she swore she was never going to be able to do). Yet, she is doing great!" Case Manager

"Artists First has played a major role in developing the art community in Maplewood and beyond. Artists First is an integral part of the Maplewood community but also the region as their inclusiveness knows no boundaries." City Official