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Art bus hits the road to help Northeast Ohio children tap into their inner-Picassos

Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 28, 2023

PAINESVILLE, Ohio — At a time when budget constraints are putting the squeeze on some school programming, one mom is hitting the gas and traveling from town-to-town to make sure the most vulnerable children in our community don't fall through the cracks.

As one of the building blocks of learning, art plays an important role in preschool.

But as funding for those "extras" during the school day dries up, as some deem it not crucial, Cathi Mezzopera is doing what she can to make sure children get the chance to tap into their creativity.

“We're here to say it is, it is important. We are a mobile art classroom. We have taken a bus and we have gutted it out," said Mezzopera.

Mezzopera's "A Kid at Art for the Heart" studio on wheels hosts eight-week art programs for underserved students, mainly in Head Start programs in Lake and Geauga counties.

"Pretty much everything that is needed is here and ready to roll, literally," said Mezzopera.

Laura Hopkins with Leake Geauga Head Start said that due to budget constraints, this is a program they wouldn't be able to do on their own.

"We are a nonprofit and our services to our families are free. We don't charge anybody for anything we do here. Art is how they learn, getting their hands dirty is how they learn things. And so, this is such an important experience for them," said Hopkins.

With supplies and gas among the biggest expenses, Mezzopera relies on grants to keep the art bus rolling.

“We have been so blessed to have support. The Head Start program, they're teaching the children how to brush their teeth and to make sure they're eating right, so we really try to say, you know, we want to bring this program, we believe in it, but we'll get the grant money, we'll bring it to you so you don't have to work that hard for it," Mezzopera.

As the pint-sized Picassos climb on board, they are encouraged to create in their own unique way. There are no rules here.

"Somebody didn't tell them where, you know, your eyes have to be right here, or the sky has to be on top. They were allowed to experience that piece of art the way they saw it,” Mezzopera.

That freedom fuels their creativity and prepares them for kindergarten.

"There's nothing greater than seeing a child just light up and be happy about something and be proud of it. That I think is the biggest reason that we do this, is to instill self-confidence," said Mezzopera.