Who We Are

Arts For Life is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting pediatric patients and families through arts education and engagement. By providing educational art programs, we enrich patient’s lives, nurture their minds and spirits, and encourage positive healthcare experiences for children and their families. We currently help children in four chapter communities across North Carolina.

Our Story

One patient, one camera, one photography lesson: That’s all it took.

In 2001, eleven-year-old Katie was diagnosed with bone cancer. While helping care for her during the long and difficult months of treatment in the hospital, her older sister, Anna, noticed that there weren’t many positive activities available for kids like Katie, activities to help them stay engaged in life. Anna saw firsthand the struggles and triumphs of these brave young patients, and recognized that many of the children’s emotional, social, and cognitive needs weren’t being met. So…she brought in a camera.

At first, Anna taught photography just to Katie. But then she started teaching Katie’s neighbors in the hospital, then five other kids on the unit got involved, then 10, then 20. Patients and their parents responded positively to the art lessons and asked for more. Photography and visual arts quickly proved to be powerful ways to help patients successfully cope with their medical treatments and hospital stays. Overwhelming requests from patients, parents, and caregivers, as well as donations and start-up grants, soon allowed Arts For Life to reach more children. Donations from many generous people and contributions from businesses, such as the Loretta Ho Sherblom Insurance Agency, enabled Anna to officially form Arts For Life at Brenner Children’s Hospital and to keep the program going.

Over the next five years, Arts For Life expanded from Winston-Salem to Asheville, Charlotte, and Durham. Arts For Life grew, offering not just photography but all types of visual art lessons—painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and more—plus music and creative writing lessons, all at no cost to families.

Today, patients and parents count on Arts For Life to be there for them, every day, offering opportunities to do what kids do best: learn, create, and grow.

Equity Statement

Arts For Life’s board, staff, volunteers, and interns are committed to creating spaces that are safe, nurturing, and empowering for all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, physical ability, mental ability, diagnosis, genetic information, cultural background, socioeconomic status, immigration status, veteran status, disability status, religious beliefs, political beliefs, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, family structure, or any other quality, invisible or visible, that makes a person, and their perspective, unique.

We hold ourselves accountable to the diverse populations we serve through actionable and impactful efforts around our organizational policies, culture, programs, and partnerships, as well as our individual efforts.

We will be sharing how we are holding ourselves accountable by posting our Equity Commitment here in September 2021.

Guiding Beliefs

We believe diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism are inextricably connected to our mission, and every facet of our work.

We believe we have a part in the work of dismantling white supremacy culture in order to create a better world for all people.

We believe diversity includes the visible and invisible qualities that make people, and their perspectives, unique.

We believe that the arts empower people to use their voices and stand up for what they believe in, and that the tools of expression and creation that we are sharing with children will not just create art and music, but also change.

We believe we have much to learn, and we are committed to listening and acting.