Art with a Heart brings color back to the pandemic

Sterling Lazarus

“As a group, we’re all very passionate about art and it’s a big part of our lives,” junior Kacey Douglas said. “We wanted to incorporate [art] by using something that we know that we can do and that we’re good at, and then use that to benefit others.”

Douglas (left) and Oh (right) co-created Art with a Heart together in 2018 (Sterling Lazarus)

Douglas, one of the founders of the student-run non-profit Art with a Heart (AWH), started working with fellow junior and co-founder Natalie Oh on AWH in 2018. Through AWH, they have raised money for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by selling masks, stationery and other art. Each product is handmade by one of the associates, using a range of materials from sewing machines to painting supplies. However, according to Douglas, day-to-day operations can often consist of a multitude of different projects.

“We have a spreadsheet schedule and we need to [write] in what kind of tasks we need to accomplish. That can range from making a product to promoting on Instagram, but we always have something we need to do,” Douglas said.

AWH originally started as an eighth grade school project to raise money for education and to combat child marriages for Sierra Leonean girls but was put on hiatus once the school year ended. The co-founders brought the organization back this spring to raise money for the CDC after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“When we restarted [AWH], we changed [the mission to raise money to combat] the virus. It was more relevant and we felt that we would be able to help a more local community,” Oh said.
Initially, the company was only run by Oh and Douglas, however, it has since grown to include three more associates. The extra associates have helped the co-founders come up with new ideas and add new products to their line up.

“Restarting [AWH], I wanted [the organization] to be a little bit more serious,” Oh said. “I asked my friends to see if they wanted to join. They’re all people I met in art class, so I knew that art and creativity was something that they were interested in.”

Douglas attributes their newfound success to the fact that they began to incorporate more products, including masks which are pertinent given the current circumstances. She explained that masks have become their biggest seller and that they even make custom ones.

“We expanded our skillset and the kind of products that we make; especially with masks. We decided to do embroidery and more paintings. Before it was very niche,” Douglas said.
Oh mentions there were some unforeseen challenges with working during a pandemic. Due to COVID-19, the communication has been especially difficult, and sometimes ideas get lost while speaking or texting online.

Art with a Heart sells masks, stationary and art to raise money for the CDC. (Sterling Lazarus)

“[Business has been] hard because of the distance thing and definitely coordinating meetings,” Oh said. “With more people, it’s harder to coordinate because we’re all busy.”
These challenges, however, have not stopped the members of AWH from conducting business. Recently, they sold a large order of 20 masks to customer Tom Smallhorn, a Redwood parent, for a funeral service.

“It was a small service because of social distancing and we gave one to everybody who attended the service,” Smallhorn said. “They’re beautiful masks and it was a nice way of being unified at the service.”

In the future, Oh and Douglas are planning to tackle other pressing issues by using the same business framework they have now: selling art to raise money for a charitable cause.
“We want to focus on a bunch of issues that are relevant to current times. After this, we might move to the Black Lives Matter movement or any other social justice issue that we want to address,” Douglas said.

If you would like to purchase artwork, masks or support AWH, you can find their website here.