Considering the steep decline in funding for public schools’ art programs, art initiatives like Art 4orms are filling the gap. Founded by Tulsan Ebony Easiley, this free, online program introduces elementary students to some of visual art’s fundamental principles, such as primary colors, via YouTube. Each lesson includes a DIY project.
At-risk students — who face circumstances that could disrupt their academic growth due to a lack of resources or systemic issues — are more likely to stay in school through art education, Easiley says. “With Art 4orm Kids, I hope to bridge that educational gap — to use the arts to disrupt historical barriers placed on disadvantaged communities of color,” she adds.
Parents can find her lessons on Art 4orm’s YouTube channel or its website, art4orms.org. Planned lessons include color theory, shape and perspective, along with highlights of local and national artists.
In one way or another, Easiley’s latest venture draws from every aspect of her career and education. She is YWCA Tulsa’s director of community engagement. She has a degree in art with an emphasis in graphic design, a minor in art history and a certificate in advertising from the University of Tulsa.
“While I was at TU, I noticed I didn’t have some of that foundational experience,” she says. “It just so happened that — right as I entered high school — the art programs began to decline.” In an effort to gauge the extent of the issue, Easiley made a point to visit local elementary schools in recent years. She walked through the halls of her former elementary school, Academy Central, and decided to do what she could to provide students with as many art opportunities as possible.
Art 4orms Foundation was born in 2019. “I have a passion for creativity, and it’s always done my heart good to see the smiles on people’s faces,” she says.
Long term, the program aims to provide a pathway toward additional career options and opportunities through art education. It also seeks to get families thinking outside the box.
“There isn’t just one way to do something,” Easiley says. “When I asked a group of kids, ‘What are all the uses of a paper clip?’ I was in awe from all the varied, creative responses. So, when I tell folks, ‘This starts with the children,’ it’s not only to help maintain their own imagination, but also to provide those reminders for us adults.”