BOUNTIFUL — Art can bring joy to even the toughest teens.
The Joy Foundation, a non-profit based in Bountiful, wants to spread that joy as far as possible. The group, which sponsors an annual chalk art festival in Bountiful every May, focuses on giving at-risk youth the opportunity to express themselves through the arts.
“These kids know how to laugh and cry, but they rarely know how to feel good about themselves,” said co-founder Jane Joy, who spoke recently to the Bountiful Rotary “Art gives them that opportunity.”
Joy, a longtime art teacher at Farmington Bay Youth Center, started the foundation in 2003 with a friend whose last name was also Joy. Their roster of arts-related programs included monologue contests, filmmaking lessons, and an open mic night held weekly in the basement of the old Bountiful/Davis Art Center building.
The recent demolition of the building forced the foundation to move to its new home at 38 E. and 400 South in Bountiful. Though they now have to pay rent and have lost the necessary facilities to hold the open mic night, art classes continue.
“Kids who are in trouble love art,” said Joy. “Gangsters love art.”
The classes, along with Joy’s experience at Farmington Bay, has given her plenty of insight into what goes through the minds of troubled youth. She’s collected a list of what her incarcerated students wish their parents had done, or ways they wished they’d listened to their parents. Many focus on the teens’ desire for more connection in their lives.
“A kid who needs love and belonging will gravitate to a gang, because that’s where they’ll get it,” said Joy.
To combat that, the Joy Foundation tries to provide teens with different ways to make connections. One of the ways they do this is through the annual chalk festival, which this year will be held May 15 through 19.
During the festival, at-risk teens can get one-on-one instruction from professional artists like Ruby Chacon. They can also mingle with other artists of all ages.
“They can quietly blend in with all the other kids,” said Joy. “It gives them a sense of belonging.”
The group always needs help with volunteers, particularly at the chalk festival. The move has also increased the need for financial help, particularly with the additional rent costs and the loss of a recording studio that gave the foundation some income.
For more information, visit kidsfindjoy.org.