This week, we caught up with Josh Nadzam, a Sullivan Award winner in 2012 and the co-founder of the On the Move Art Studio. He told us about what the studio is doing to spread positivity and confidence to neighborhoods across Kentucky.
Can you tell me about the On the Move Art Studio?
I’m the cofounder, and we are a nonprofit. Our main mission is to go to low-income neighborhoods and have free art classes for the kids.
What’s your motivation?
The first main reason is I grew up in a really bad neighborhood that had a lot of drugs and a lot of crime. I come from a very broken family. I know what it’s like to grow up in neighborhood where there are not a lot of positive things happening. My motivation is to bring art to neighborhoods that could benefit from it. And in these neighborhoods, a lot of times, it’s a transport issue. If you have a beautiful center but kids can’t get to it, it’s kind of pointless.
What made you decide on art as your focus?
I got master’s degree in social work. I started to understand the impact art can have on at-risk youth. That’s my main motivation. I met Kathy Werking. She and I had the same vision.
First and foremost, art improves self-esteem. When you attempt an art project that at first you don’t think you can do, but you complete it, I see very visibly the self-esteem boost kids have. Kids think, “I did that,” and they feel better. It gives you a boost of confidence when you accomplish something.
Self-efficacy is another big one we’re focusing on. A lot of the kids we work with, their immediate reaction is, “I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I’m bad, I’m terrible.” We want to use art as way to build self-efficacy. It shows them that not only can you do an art project, you can do anything you set your mind to. We have to start those building blocks early on. What we try to do is use it as way to build self-efficacy so whenever they’re faced with any sort of challenge, they feel like they can do it. And creativity alone is huge piece of it.
What is the On the Move Art Studio up to now?
In September, we turned 3 years old. In our first three years, we have served over 17,000 children. It’s been really cool.
We currently use a vintage trailer we renovated to turn into a mobile art room. We utilize that, but we also got a second trailer. We’re raising money to renovate that. We hope by the spring to have two trailers in operation.
We can’t keep up with the demand for classes. They’re all free, but we do it by request. We want it to be something the neighborhood wants, not something paternalistic. It should be something they want.
As we’re speaking right now, our spring is totally booked. We want to continue growing and improving quality of what we do. We’re going to do art therapy. We’re going to start going into the juvenile detention center and work with the kids there.
Where are you headed in the future?
My hope is in ten years, we’ll have ten trailers and ten trucks to pull those trailers. My hope is we’ll have a fleet of those so we can continue to meet demand.
We go all over Kentucky at this point. If we have fleet of trailers, we can send them out. We can send out artists and caring adult volunteers and continue growing. Kids really like it. It’s cool to see how excited they are to participate.
Personally, I don’t have a lot of patience for people who say kids need more thing to do and don’t do anything about it. If you give kids things to do, they will do them. But if we as adults sit there and complain, they’re not going to do stuff. Kids will be engaged if we engage them.
Can you tell me about when you won your Sullivan Award?
It was not related to this project. I was student at University of Kentucky [in 2012]. I received Sullivan Medallion, which from what I understand, they give to one male graduating student and one female graduating student.
It was really cool. It meant a lot to me. It was for character and acts of community service and being selfless and trying to promote welfare of others. It meant a lot to me. University of Kentucky gave me a shot when a lot of other schools didn’t. To come full circle and receive an award out of thousands of students was really cool.
How can people help?
I’d say a few things. One is volunteering. We always need and love volunteers to come out and sit with kids and talk to them. You don’t need any art experience. You just need to be an adult who cares.
We also need supplies. We are always in need of supplies. If you have new or used art supplies, we are happy to take them off hands and put them to use.
And, of course, we need donations, whether they are towards our mission or towards our second trailer.
I also want to say how thankful I am for the Sullivan Foundation. When I received that medallion, it meant a lot to me. It helped propel me toward my career of this kind of work. The recognition of my efforts was a big motivation. Thank you, it means a lot. That anyone would recognize my work is very cool. It was a big self-esteem boost. I am thankful for the Sullivan Foundation and the award I got.
You can find more information about the On the Move Art Studio on their website. If you can, send some donations their way, or if you’re in the Kentucky area, volunteer. Thanks to the On the Move Art Studio for the amazing work you’re doing.
You can also learn more about what Sullivan Award winners and students are doing by keeping up with the Sullivan Connect blog. Check out our article about Cole Dutton, a student at Berea College, to see what another young changemaker is doing.