Kids posing with their paintings. (Photo courtesy of Emily Im)


My experience running a summer art camp: The Heartshare Project

<a href="" target="_self">Emily Im</a>

Emily Im

July 13, 2022
I was first introduced to the possibility of being able to have my own summer camp when my friend and I were accepted into a fellowship that offered up to $5,000 for fellows to run their dream projects. This forced me to consider several factors and ask myself important questions.

What would my project be centered around? Who would it impact?  

I immediately knew that I wanted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be something I am incredibly passionate about: Art. I have been continuously taking art lessons for nearly five years, and though I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it is not a cheap hobby. Buying different colored paints, good quality colored pencils, materials for my installations and a Canon Rebel camera — the list goes on.

But what if I wasn’t as privileged? 

I have grown up in a particularly wealthy neighborhood, with two loving, supportive parents that can afford to fund my interests. When I told them that I wanted to practice art, they immediately found me a studio where my talents could flourish, bought me the best materials and regularly boasted about my accomplishments to their friends and family.

Not everyone has that luxury.

I wanted my project to be a week-long art camp that served low-income students that don’t have a lot of or as much access to art as I do. It is a heartbreaking fact that some students love art so much but their environment and financial circumstances don’t allow for their art dreams to become a reality. We would provide the art materials and lessons, teach them more about art and act as a stepping stone for their future art journeys. This formed “The Heartshare Project.”

My fellowship coordinator reached out to me and my partner and let me know that they were holding a camp. The camp would host a couple of projects within it, which meant mine could be part of their camp. This would be held at Mix Academy, a non-profit that serves unhoused, low-income and foster care children. I loved this idea and immediately agreed.

Fast forward 3 months…

It was the week of the camp. I was thrilled. It was nearly an hour and a half long drive with my 6-7 volunteers, but it was all worth it. We arrived, lugged our stuff all into the wide, chilly room and began to set up. My volunteers were running around, bumping into each other as we tried to get set up in a short period of time before the first wave of students rushed in.

12:00 p.m.

Swarms of kids piled into the classroom and I scrambled to get them all seated. We presented our lesson for the day, and let them get started on their activity. It was different every day, with Monday being drawing day, Tuesday being sculpture day, and Wednesday being individual painting day.

Thursday and Friday would be the designated group painting day, days set for painting a big canvas altogether so that not only these kids, but future generations of Mix Academy students could have a piece of their experience to hold on to for a long time to come.


The class times went by so fast. I felt like I had little to no time to sit back and enjoy the little moments. I was always rushing around trying to get the kids their paints, hand back paintings, help open clay, etc.

But when I found myself sitting there with little groups of kids, helping them come up with new ideas for their pieces, help sketch their designs and mix colors, I felt this gratifying sensation and a moment of realization; a realization that I was again incredibly lucky to be able to teach and share my passions with these kids who shared the same passions as me.

Every time they would come into my class, these very kids would say “can you come sit with us?” They would come up to me and tell me that our class was their favorite, that our class made them feel like art was truly for anyone, even when at first they felt that they weren’t good enough to make art.

When hearing this, no matter how tired and worn out I was, it would all feel worth it because I knew that something I was doing was making an impact.

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