As art opportunities have become increasingly limited in some schools over the past couple years, Emma Bradford and her sister Leighton have built an organization to help fill in the gap for students and families in Nashville.
The two sisters co-founded The Little Art House and the Little Art House Foundation, striving to provide a safe space for people of all ages to imagine, explore, and create. Prior to starting the organization, they were both public school teachers in Nashville and Antioch. Emma said their passion was established at an early age by their mother who was also an art teacher and always gave them a safe space to explore their creativity at home. These warm memories of “risk and reward fueled by imagination”, according to their website, are what motivated them to create the Little Art House.
“This idea kind of came out of the realization that not every kid has that, that openness and space to create without worrying about the grade or the mess,” said Bradford. “Just a pure safe space to imagine and try whatever you want.”
Following Bradford’s four years teaching at Antioch High School, she and her husband moved to Franklin where she decided to continue as a substitute teacher. Around this time, she found herself at a position at a private art studio which gave her the opportunity to work with children of all ages and an insight “of the impact of art education at any age.”
“Classes give kids a space to learn that trying and failing is all part of the process, that you don’t always have to be perfect at everything and can still make something that’s valued,” said Bradford. “Art can be such a great educational tool that can give students a sense of success and pride that they might not find in other spaces or subjects.”
The Little Art House was first tested out at a summer camp in 2016. Since then, it has been a whirlwind for both sisters who have since left their jobs with the school district and put their all into growing it into what it is today. The duo announced the creation of their non-profit branch, the Little Art House Foundation, earlier this year.
“We’ve always wanted to give back and support art teachers in the way that we wanted to be when we were teaching,” said Bradford. “It can be a really difficult process to get help as a teacher.”
The foundation will support teachers and other non-profits by offering materials, bringing in art experts to help with advanced students, getting hands-on volunteers to help in the classroom, and much more.
“The foundation really gives us the space to keep growing,” said Bradford. “We’re offering adult classes through Hadley Park library for free for adults, and we recently secured a second location that will be home for both another studio and the foundation.”
Bradford says her dream is to see more Little Art Houses and programs like it all over the country some day.
“We want to take this element that we’ve started to grow, having our art classes as a safe space to imagine, explore, and create pressure free for all ages, and bring this to the community,” she said.
If you know of someone who is making a positive difference in our community, please let us know