Kids from high crime and poverty areas are exploring their artistic abilities through a nonprofit program in Iowa’s capital city. Art Force Iowa is located in the basement of Park Fair Mall, on Des Moines’ north side. Executive Director John Mark Feilmeyer started the program a year ago.
“Since about July, we’ve been going nonstop,” Feilmeyer says. “Kids keep coming into the program and we are getting them involved in a lot of different activities. We have three to four nights of programming a week. Basically, trying to give these kids whatever support they need.”
The organization fills a void in the kids’ education, according to Feilmeyer, as well as those who are in the juvenile court system. “The reality is that a youth can get court involved and it’s a huge stress on the child. They need a place, a safe space they can go and be themselves and learn to express themselves better and more appropriately, and that’s what we provide,” Feilmeyer says.
Art Force Iowa provides four types of art programs and has about 60 kids involved. Feilmeyer says he wants to double that amount this year. Some of the new participants will be a part of a program that works with kids in the juvenile court system.