Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) alumna Avalon Lafosse is no stranger to using her talents to bring more healing and catharsis to her community. While in high school, she created an arts instructional program that continues to grow and provide joy to those who need it most.
At just 12 years old, the Visual Arts Conservatory graduate was inspired to use her artistic skills for good after reading teenage cancer fighter Esther Earl’s memoir, “This Star Won’t Go Out.”
“I wanted to help kids like her, and so I set out to inspire others with my true passion ─ fine art,” Lafosse said.
After meeting Esther’s mother at a convention in 2016, Lafosse was moved to begin her organization, Art for Relaxation Therapy (also known as ART), where she set out to create and deliver “ART” packs to children and teens admitted to Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
Lafosse said she assembled a team of friends from OCSA to create online video tutorials on subjects ranging from watercolor techniques to portrait how-tos. Patients followed along, using the supplies in their ART packs to create their own masterpieces.
Reflecting back on the day she delivered the art packs for the first time, Lafosse said, “I remember crying on the way home because it was something I had set out to do 5 years earlier. The experience was so eye-opening and fulfilling. I’m sure I learned more from the patients than they did from me that day.”
Following her first class, the program quickly expanded and brought ART to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Lafosse even went global and began donating ART Pack Backpacks to areas of need in Guatemala, Haiti and Kolkata.
Today, her program reaches students at CHOC through two in-hospital programs: the Studio ARTist Series and the Global ARTist Series. The Studio ARTist Series teaches teenagers in the oncology division more advanced techniques and concepts with personal projects that will be featured in a virtual art show in June 2021. The Global ARTist Series teaches patients of all ages about specific artists using a fun art-based project to try out their style or creative process. ART Packs and ART Backpacks are donated in conjunction with these lessons and are taught using broadcasts from CHOC’s Seacrest Studios or live on Zoom.
Lafosse said during the global pandemic, the mission of ART has never been more important.
“COVID-19 definitely made me take a step back and reevaluate how ART would function. The team and I had already created many online ART tutorials, but I needed to revise the in-hospital format. I’m so grateful to be able to work with the team at CHOC and create Zoom-type lessons where we all work from home and directly with patients in their rooms via their TV monitor,” she said.
In partnership with OCSA’s Visual Arts Conservatory and the Max H. Gluck Foundation, which supports programs that bring arts and education to those in need, Lafosse was able to create 300 ART kits – one for each patient at CHOC – to continue her program during the pandemic.
“Recently ART was honored to receive a generous grant from The Gluck Foundation. This came at such a crucial time, especially since fundraising efforts have been difficult since the outbreak of COVID-19,” Avalon said.
In addition to ART, the Max H. Gluck Foundation and OCSA together have worked to bring the arts to the Orange County community. With the help of Gluck, OCSA has been able to provide arts education and entertainment to OC Amazing Grace Ministries, El Sol Academy and many others.