The Power of Art


While working for the Institute of Musical Traditions in 1995, Busy Graham noticed a problem. There was a need for top quality arts enrichment programs in schools and few work opportunities for artists during the work week.

“Arts can play such a vital role in helping kids finding their path to a good, healthy life,” she said.

Graham wanted to connect creative arts and artists to schools and underserved communities. Thus, Class Acts Arts was born.

Youth create a mural through Class Acts Arts’ Project Youth ArtReach program./ Photo by Joey Tomassoni

Youth create a mural through Class Acts Arts’ Project Youth ArtReach program./Photo by Joey Tomassoni

Since then, CAA has grown into an accredited, award-winning regional outreach arts education nonprofit that brings arts programs to school and underserved communities in the DMV. CAA has reached more than 5 million young people via more than 25,000 artist programs, according to executive director James Modrick.

“(Class Acts Arts) brings the arts to people where they are,” said Modrick.

Artists visit schools, youth detention centers, and other community-based organizations. The interactive programs include workshops, performances, and artist residencies. CAA’s programs introduce schools and communities to a variety of art forms, such as storytelling, puppet shows and dance, among others.

Visual artist Carien Quiroga teaches CAA’s Project Youth ArtReach program in detention centers, correctional facilities and crisis centers, as well as with children in hospitals. 

She said she has seen her students “realize the power of art.”

Class Acts Arts Visual Artist. Carien Quiroga, worked with patients, staff and parents at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to create a 27 SF mural

“Through the arts we can find common ground,” she said, “we can make connections. Because I work in the correctional facility, people are from very different backgrounds… but sitting around a table and making art, the things that separate them don’t matter anymore because they are sharing a common goal.” (Next)