girls10I never really understood the impact of art education in child development until I interviewed artist Matt Moffett.

“I’ve seen the shyest girl become a spelling bee champion and have a lot of self-assurance,” said Moffett, owner of the Tulsa Girls Art School.

Matt now knows what study after study reveals on art education.

“They become creative leaders at their schools.”

It’s no secret that art education has diminished for years as school budgets are slashed.

Private funding is more important than ever.

Experts say art classes help kids learn motor skills, focus and problem solving.

A report from Americans for the Arts says daily art activity leads to a greater chance for interest in other subjects too, like math and science.

“The girls are a lot more independent.” said Moffett. “They become a lot more involved in programs. They become a lot more enthusiastic. It’s really been a blessing to see these girls grow up.”

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While some parents and teachers lobby for more state and federal funding, Moffett took action and started a girls only art school for underprivileged girls (although he wasn’t sold on girls only at first).

The story begins about a decade ago. Moffett was teaching art to 5th graders and convinced a local restaurant owner to feature pieces from his students.

One week later, the 5th graders had $12,000 to landscape a school courtyard.

The success got the attention of a local philanthropist. The woman was willing to donate a lot of money with one condition.

She told Matt, “I will give you the first $350,000, but it has to be for girls only.”

Of course, he agreed and came to understand the why later.

Click play below to hear more of Matt Moffett’s interview and how to paint the perfect abstract.




“Girls don’t have the same opportunity of boys, especially in the zip code that we serve. In the poor areas of town, they have to cook and clean and babysit, where as boys are a little bit more free to do things.”

The school expands the minds and creativity of every student.

“We teach them photography. We teach them painting, acrylic and oil.”

Matt23The girls can choose which advance classes they want to pursue. Artists from all over the world come to Tulsa and collaborate with the girls.

Then, twice a year, they sell their work.

“Thirty percent is put back into a micro-savings account for each girl. And so it also teaches them financial management.”

This year was huge for the school.

One of the first students graduated high school and is now on her way to college… the first person in her family to attend.

“We have each girl for nine years. And once they graduate high school, they have a one woman show.”

The recent high school grad now has a nice check to go toward her college career.

“She had a show with 23 art pieces in it and she sold $6,000 in two hours.”

Matt and his staff also helped her fill out the paperwork to get into college AND provided her with a laptop.

Moffett helps many girls, but wants to reach more.

“We only have 60 kids right now in the program due to limited space.”

Matt is planning a school expansion in the next couple of years.

“It’s amazing how much the kids teach me and they just keep it so real….. (laughter), so real all of the time.”

If you don’t have someone like Matt in your area, check the community centers at local parks.

They’ve been teaching children’s classes for years.

Check out Moffett’s design for the poster at this year’s Tulsa International Mayfest!
It’s an annual festival for art and music. You’ll find me there every year. I even save money for it.

Trust me… you don’t want to go there without money to spend. It’s torture. You’ll find too many beautiful things to buy.