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About Little Lights Arts

Little Lights Arts is a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization, initially launched in 2006 for children living in Harlem and the South Bronx sections of New York City. Founder and Director, Maya Cunningham, started the organization out of concern for children living in her Harlem neighborhood who were not being constructively engaged and beginning to exhibit delinquent behaviors. Little Lights Arts was awarded the Arise and Walk Missions Award in 2006, a For Kids Only Foundation Dare to Dream grant in 2007 and 2013, and an Arts Alive grant from Arts Westchester in February 2013. Little Lights Arts now serves children in Washington DC, New York City and other urban centers the United States where under served children live.

Our first program was the Little Lights Children’s Arts Workshop, presented in partnership with Harlem Grace Tabernacle and Harlem’s Project Hope Community Center. Over 200 children participated in the Little Lights Arts Workshop in 2006, 2007, 2009. The program was also conducted in Peekskill, New York and Harlem in 2013,, culminating in an exciting art exhibition and Christmas Party for children living in a transitional housing residence. The Little Lights Children’s Arts Workshop included extensive instruction in visual art, vocal music, creative writing, drumming and percussion. The programs culminated with two recordings and standing room only performances. 

Little Lights Arts also created a program called the Hephzibah Rites of Passage Program for Girls with Hunts Point and Owen Dolen Recreation centers in the South Bronx in 2008. Hephzibah is a Hebrew word that means ‘My Delight is in Her.’ Twenty sixth and seventh grade girls engaged in a five month long goal setting, abstinence education and creative arts program. The girls enjoyed outdoor activities like ice skating, beach trips, barbecues and swimming. They participated in two college preparation workshops along with a career retreat where they participated in presentations by professional women of color. They developed their creative arts skills through vocal music lessons, two vocal performances, sewing, a tie dye project and jewelry making. The girls also participated in a natural hair care workshop and spa day. Interwoven through all of these activities was a faith-based teen pregnancy prevention and abstinence education curriculum that instilled in the girls values of self-worth, self-esteem, time – honored moral values, lady – like dignity, a collegiate mindset and career development focus. The Hephzibah Rites of Passage Program once again engaged girls living in Central Harlem in 2010. This version of the program culminated with a nature adventure at Lake Champion Young Life Camp in Glen Spey, New York.

In 2012, Little Lights Arts conducted the Hephzibah Girls Workshop for elementary school girls (8 to 10 years old), with the goal of empowering girls through the arts and character education. The program took place at the elementary afterschool program of Simpson Street Development Association (SISDA) in the South Bronx. Over twenty girls participated in the workshop that spanned for eight sessions. Activities included doll making, journaling and poetry writing with the purpose of helping to build a healthy self-image, build self-esteem, cultivating self- respect, healthy boundaries and respect for others. The girls explored their individual educational and career goals through the inspiration of key women in history who are role models of accomplishment and lady - like dignity. The workshop culminated with an Afternoon Tea for the girls and their mothers.

Little Lights Arts also conducts an In-School Arts Programs and Residencies that provides innovative, hands-on arts and cultural programs for students who attend public elementary schools. Programs include Samba, Soul and Civil Rights, Follow the Drinking Gourd Music Map Murals, Songs of the Silk Road, Jazz, Scat and Improvising Cats, Music, Science and Nature, along with many others. Please click here for more information.

Little Lights Arts has continued to present short – termed, high impact programs in Washington DC and will do so in other areas of the country where underserved children can be empowered through the arts. The organization’s newest project is The Drinking Gourd Festival, a vibrant art exhibition opening and children’s concert celebrating the history of the song Follow the Drinking Gourd and the Underground Railroad. The Drinking Gourd Festival will debut in the Southeast section of Washington DC, June 16, 2015 at Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood library, in partnership with DC Public Library.