Many would describe the arts as healing, but at the ELM Foundation, that ethos is baked into part of the organization’s mission: to mend hearts through the arts. Founded and named in honor of a young girl experiencing family trauma, the ELM Foundation, located at 191 North 14th Street in Williamsburg, uses arts therapy as a method for healing while also advocating for the benefits and accessibility of this unique but vital form of restoration. Programming has expanded since the organization’s founding in 2019; their ongoing Boiler program is committed to nurturing emerging artists, ELM has work shown in the current Greenpoint Open Studios, and they will also host their first Pride Fair this month. Below, director Melinda McCoy discusses the history and ongoing efforts of this local foundation.
Greenpointers: Can you tell us a little about ELM Foundation and who it honors?
Melinda McCoy: At ELM Foundation, we promote the healing power of the arts. We do this by facilitating and advocating art therapy, providing multidisciplinary arts education, and building sustained mentorships, all working together to form a regenerative creative collective.
ELM Foundation was founded as a tribute to Emma Lauren McCoy. At an early age, Emma experienced traumatic family circumstances beyond her control, leaving her without a voice. Through the arts, she was able to find a way to express herself. As Emma’s situation worsened, her mother and ELM founder decided to help as many other kids as possible by providing artistic opportunities in her honor.
What have been some initiatives since the foundation’s beginnings?
When ELM first launched, we focused on advocating and facilitating art therapy for youth experiencing family restructuring. We quickly saw the benefits of expanding into general arts education to provide multiple opportunities for development and growth.
After re-opening The Boiler, initially a well-known gallery established by Pierogi, we found a balance to solidify our organization as a community arts hub. At ELM, we teach our kids that the arts can be a life-long beneficial outlet for self-expression and a viable career. Putting this into practice, we also support working artists who share our passion for utilizing the arts and giving back to keep our creative community alive.
You are hosting a Pride Fair for the first time! What are you looking forward to with that event?
At ELM, our programming brings people together, promotes inclusivity, and, in turn, fosters a sense of belonging. Therefore, our overall daily philosophy naturally fits within the celebration of Pride. Although this is our first event, we had planned to participate for a couple of years but needed more structure to do so. This year one of our team members, Miranda Martinez, took the lead and envisioned the fair concept — creating an event that encompassed more of a community celebration to include art makers, youth artists, musicians, and more. A core goal of this fundraising event raising money for new art therapy programming for LGBTQ+ youth.
You are also participating in Greenpoint Open Studios. Is it your first time and what has that effort involved?
This is indeed our first time participating, and we are honored to be involved! We have really enjoyed collaborating with GOS in our mutual goals of supporting community-based artists and the neighborhood as a whole. We are so excited to be hosting the GOS closing party and can’t wait to meet and engage with more artists and art lovers in the community.
Are there any projects on the horizon that excite you?
We are currently in our next growth phase and expanding our facilities and programming. We just added a dedicated classroom and studio space for our community youth which will allow us to broaden our fall class offerings. This summer, we will be developing more programming for adults and emerging artists as well as family-orientated workshops. As we move forward, we will be doing even more outreach to create partnerships and gather ideas on how best to serve our community. We invite everyone to follow and participate as we build a nexus of intersecting creative communities and practices.
Anything else to add?
We want to thank our North Brooklyn and Greenpoint neighborhoods for their encouragement and support. We look forward to empowering our youth with creative voices and welcome our artistic community into the heart of ELM.
We hope to meet you at our upcoming Pride Fair!