Just like any proud momma, for Victoria Mercer, the hallways in her home are a diverse montage — acrylics, pottery, and watercolors are a few mediums on display — an accumulation from the many afternoons her children have spent with Nicole Ashton Martin at the Kindred Art and Folk Institute. One of Mercer’s favorite art pieces in her hallway is a painting titled The Soul Portrait — a visual representation of what her children find meaningful and important.

“Part of what Nicole [founder of the institute] does that is so unique and valuable for my kids, is that they are bringing much more home than a craft project,” Mercer said. “She really provides and facilitates some effort for the children to reflect, to think about who they are, and what they value, all through art. I think that’s pretty wonderful.”

For six years Mercer has watched her son Mac and daughter Stella grow and develop, intellectually and creatively through the institute — an organization fostering the arts by providing sustainable art education to individuals and families, with a mission to provide accessible art for the entire community. The institute offers a variety of classes and artistic mediums (all professional grade) for children ages five to 18, year-round.


“It’s amazing to know the impact it’s had on these kids’ lives and how it has formed them as humans. They hear that something can’t be done and they are the first to make it happen,” Ashton Martin said. “If that can start here, and slowly spread out into the world, that’s amazing.”

Currently, 28 percent of students at Kindred are in need of financial support. While Kindred doesn’t have traditional funding for scholarships, Ashton Martin explains that it’s not an option to turn a child away due to financial reasons. So, most of their funding comes through fundraising efforts, including their signature event — the Inspired Adventure Festival happening May 19, with all funds going toward at-risk youth scholarships, project supplies, and transportation for adventures outside of the studio.

“When you’re here in it [the festival], you can feel the love and joy,” said Ashton Martin.

Support the arts, its vitality in the community, and Kindred’s sixth anniversary. The festival, just like the organization, will have something for everyone — tie dye, a keychain making booth, button making, Henna tattoos, hula hoops, live music from Afrolicious, an urban art wall, and brews for the parents. Food vendors will be available, along with a lemonade and baked goods stand run by the kiddos.


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