Free Arts’ programs inspire hope in the lives of children who have experienced abuse, neglect, homelessness, and chronic poverty through innovative creative arts programs and positive interactions with caring adult volunteer-mentors. Free Arts for Abused Children has corps of approximately 600 volunteers who donate over 10,000 hours of service each year, making it possible to serve 30,000 children annually. They work with 40 partner agencies throughout Los Angeles County, including emergency and transitional homeless shelters, family resource centers, foster group homes, and low-income housing communities. All of their programs operate with the belief that art heals! You can find more information on their Facebook and Twitter.
1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?
I sort of fell into the nonprofit industry, and have only been involved in it for about a year and a half. I graduated from UCLA in June 2011 with a BA in World Arts and Cultures. Aside from being a fantastic and welcoming environment in which to study, the WAC department taught me to look at the world from all different angles and through a multi-faceted lens. I became interested in fighting to make public education more readily available to all. I began working at the Hollywood Arts Council shortly after graduation after replying to a Craigslist ad, and I focused that passion into making arts education available to those who need it most and yet receive the least. There is little to no art being taught in LAUSD schools, in favor of math and science. But the therapeutic and healing properties of art-making are necessary to a person’s emotional and intellectual growth.
I recognized this, and am now very happily working at Free Arts for Abused Children to deliver art programs to children throughout Los Angeles County who have faced abuse, neglect, homelessness, and chronic poverty. I have been lucky enough to know people in the nonprofit world for my whole life, and responding to that Craigslist ad was a total fluke! But if you’re interested in the nonprofit side of things, I would recommend figuring out what causes you’re passionate about and then landing an internship with an organization that serves that segment of the population. Even if the organization doesn’t take you on as an employee afterwards, you’ll really get to experience what it’s like working for a nonprofit and you’ll hopefully get to network with similar organizations from all over your city.
2. What’s the future of your industry or job?
My particular position holds a lot of promise in the coming years. My title is Community Liaison, which has never before existed at Free Arts. I am defining it as I go, and it’s really exciting for me. It started out programs-based, but has swiftly become a mix of programs and development, which I’m loving. Since my main mission is to get our name out there, the development side of my job will mean a lot of party-planning with companies who want to make us the beneficiary of their events. I am also hoping to create a schedule of salons throughout the year that will feature the multimedia work our children create during our programs. It is truly an exciting time!
3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?
I decided it would be good to go around and ask everyone in the office for help on this one, since our interns truly help all of us out. Across the board, the most important thing for an intern to have is passion. We want interns who are not only passionate about working at a nonprofit, but who are also passionate about our cause. Working in our office is certainly a good introduction into the nonprofit world, but we want someone who is specifically interested in working with children and/or the arts—because our office clearly functions differently from, for example, a healthcare nonprofit’s office. A good intern must also be self-sufficient, self-motivated, flexible, organized, dependable, a great communicator (even if they are shy at first!), a team player (who plays nice!), one who isn’t afraid to ask questions, and one who takes initiative. Our Executive Director Shauna McClure noted importantly, “An intern should understand and mesh well with our organization’s culture.”
4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?
Be eager! Free Arts is a very small nonprofit. We have a corps of around 600 volunteer-mentors and serve children and families at 40 partner agencies throughout Los Angeles, but there are only 7 people on our staff. We need all the help we can get! This might mean tedious tasks like filing volunteer applications and working with spreadsheets, but just trust that you are making our lives so much easier and therefore you are truly enabling us to focus on our mission. Being aware of and passionate about that mission is also imperative.
5. Can you share a positive intern story and an intern horror story? No names needed…
About a week after I started working at Free Arts this past June, we brought on a summer intern who was absolutely fantastic. She went above and beyond every single one of her assignments every single day. She filed, she updated our database, she made phone calls, and sent out emails, all with a big smile. She went home to her friends and sang praises of our organization, and spread the good word on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. She participated in all sorts of activities that were not mandatory for her. In short, she was amazing and truly lightened our workload. She also felt comfortable asking us questions when problems arose or something was unclear for her. That’s a huge plus!
My “intern horror story” is exactly the opposite. One of the interns I worked with at the Hollywood Arts Council was difficult to say the least. She would come in late every day, and proceed to spend most of her time arguing with her boyfriend over the phone. Almost every time I went over to her desk she was on her personal Facebook account. My boss asked her to make a copy of something, and she simply said, “I do not know how to make copies.” Whenever my boss would leave for lunch or a meeting, this intern would complain to me about how boring her current assignment was. As someone who has had several internships over the years, I know how frustrating it can be to complete sometimes mundane tasks for little or no money, but that’s no excuse for being blatantly disrespectful of the people you’re working with. And also, if you don’t know how to use the copier, just ask!
Interested in interning for Free Arts for Abused Children? They’re currently looking for an intern! Apply now.