Published in the May 16 – 29, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life
By Renee Gastelum
How do you serve someone with art?
This is the question I asked myself three years ago. I had received art training in various classes for several years, both in a school setting and in a private studio. I had also served in various capacities in volunteer organizations such as Interact and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The summer before my sophomore year, I considered, why not combine my two passions, art and service? I founded Art Your Heart Out — an organization of high school students from the Bay Area who use their artistic skills to serve their communities.
Art Your Heart Out’s first branch was at Oakwood High School, where I worked with students to paint a mural in front of Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco with nonprofit organization Precita Eyes Muralists. We also hosted a holiday craft fair to fundraise and donate money to nonprofit Artists for Charity. We made coloring books and delivered them to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. These projects not only expanded our art skills but allowed us to serve and interact with people whom we otherwise would never have met. Our capacity to love grew along with our capacity to create.
The following year, Art Your Heart Out expanded to Live Oak and Ann Sobrato High Schools. We exercised our capabilities by making blankets for hospitalized children through Project Linus and by making a gigantic card for local firefighters to thank them for protecting civilians from a series of large fires earlier that year.
Art Your Heart Out continues to grow, and this past October, its District 1 worked with nonprofit organization Eagle Condor to create and send 127 art care packages with coloring books, colored pencils, and stickers to children Peru.
These children were from El Bichito, one of the poorest areas in the country. Children in this area typically work or stay home to help their families instead of being able to attend school. Students and Peruvian children alike were enriched by this project. Art Your Heart Out members rose to the task of selflessly giving up their time and talent to serve those who needed their help.
Most recently, students in Art Your Heart Out united to serve four local organizations. They created coloring books and brought together crayons and other craft supplies to put together art kits. These kits were delivered to patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto.
Art Your Heart Out members also decorated greeting cards for residents of the Westmont Living nursing home in Morgan Hill to use and to send to loved ones. Furthermore, students collected and delivered craft supplies to the Boys & Girls Club and to Rebekah Children’s Services. These organizations work with children and adolescents in the Morgan Hill and Gilroy areas to help them to realize their potential as creative, productive, and responsible citizens.
The eagerness of Art Your Heart Out members to serve the community through art has brought smiles to the faces of many. I am glad to have had the opportunity to bring together 97 students to serve those around them. I hope that Art Your Heart Out members continue to find joy in serving others.
To learn more about what Art Your Heart Out is doing in our community, please visit www.ayhoservice.org or follow @ayhodistrict1 on Instagram.
Renee Gastelum is a senior at Oakwood High School.
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