Chelsea Phaire is using art as a vessel to help children who have been through traumatic experiences heal.
Posted April 21, 2020
When 10-year-old Chelsea Phaire was gifted an expensive art kit from a family friend for Christmas two years ago, the present drew a conversation between the youngster and her parents about the lack of accessibility to art supplies among underserved youth. Determined to address the issue, Chelsea set out on a mission to share her love of art with children from underprivileged communities, ultimately leading to the creation of her nonprofit Chelsea’s Charity. She is now using the charity as a vessel to keep children inspired and empowered amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Chelsea’s passion to give back to those in need started long before she discovered her love for art. At the age of five, during a family trip to Washington, D.C., she witnessed the ravaging effects that hunger had on the homeless population. Initially, the Connecticut native’s charity was focused on combating food insecurity, but she decided to switch gears after a traumatic experience. When Chelsea was 8-years-old her swimming coach Donovan Brown was shot and killed. Brown’s murder significantly impacted her. She also was simultaneously dealing with being bullied by her peers at school. She decided to pour her feelings into art.
Her artistry became more than just a hobby, it was used as a means for healing. “Art helped me a lot,” Chelsea told NewsOne. “Art helps me communicate when I can’t express myself. It has helped me become a better person. I always turn to my sketchbook when I’m upset. I learned to calm down and have a new level of patience when it comes to a lot of things.” After experiencing how therapeutic and transformative creating art was, Chelsea decided she wanted to use art to empower other children who have experienced trauma and are facing adversities.
Her mother Candace Barriteau Phaire was completely supportive of Chelsea’s idea. Phaire, who is a faculty member of Central Connecticut State University’s early childhood education department, has conducted research and taught classes surrounding social and emotional skills. She says art can be used as a powerful means of communication. “We can’t always express ourselves through words. We have to think of different ways to communicate,” she told NewsOne. “I’m always encouraging teachers, parents, and families to give kids multiple ways of communicating and expressing how they are feeling. I used to teach first grade and I would see my students drawing things they had never verbalized; things that were going on in their households. Although initially, they weren’t comfortable speaking about those things, they wanted to draw it out. That’s when I realized this was a method of communicating that hasn’t been tapped into enough.” Research shows that arts education can change the trajectory of a child’s life and lead to greater social tolerance.
For Chelsea’s 10th birthday, she asked guests to bring art supplies donations instead of gifts so she could create art kits for Chelsea’s Charity. Chelsea and her parents have traveled to places to provide art kits for youth following traumatic incidents, including the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the tragic Jersey City massacre that happened in December of 2019. Chelsea is now focused on providing art kits for youth living in homeless shelters during the coronavirus pandemic. She has shipped kits to facilities that support at-risk children in foster care in Flint, Michigan, and Kentucky. She also created a kit for an HBCU student who has been approved to stay on their campus due to hardships. She plans on mailing kits to a shelter in Los Angeles. Her mom says it’s important to break the socio-economic barriers surrounding art. “We’re about providing access and entry points into art, we’re not trying to put up another barrier. That’s why the kits are free,” said Phaire.
Since the inception of Chelsea’s Charity, she has distributed over 1,500 art kits and has focused on helping other groups heal through art, including our nation’s veterans. All in all, Chelsea, an aspiring author, singer, actress, and restaurateur, wants to use her art kits to help folks overcome trauma and better their mental health.