Freedom Arts & Education Center creates artistic, academic, and advancement opportunities to feed, heal, and teach the youth of St. Louis. By removing systemic barriers and building resourced spaces, Black and Brown youth realize their own power to become highly creative, literate, passionate, independent thinkers. Since 2012, we have supported youth through accessible community arts programs, decolonized educational resources, enriching multidiscipline summer programs, in-school advocacy, and job opportunities.
Creating artistic, academic, and advancement opportunities to feed, heal, and teach the youth of St. Louis.
Our values begin with our foundation and tradition of faith. We find our purpose and tenacity in these Biblical passages:
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Tia Byrd is an Alumni of Tennessee State University. After relocating to St. Louis in early 2014, she began working in social justice, land use, and economic policy as the executive director of a nonprofit. Her work in urban agriculture coincided with this. Studying permaculture design and food preservation she began stewarding a garden space and working with youth and returning citizens in the St. Louis region.
Board Vice President
Emanuel Powell III is an attorney based in Washington, DC. He served as a Skadden Fellow in St. Louis from 2020-2022, litigating civil rights cases and organizing on behalf of families who had lost loved ones to fatal state violence in the region. Before law school, he advised nonprofit and philanthropic organizations as a strategy and design consultant.
Toni Thomas is a gifted singer, educator, and child advocate. A recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in Cognitive Neuroscience and Educational Studies, she has a wealth of experience working in child advocacy throughout the St. Louis region.
Carlos Burgos is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with experience working with children, adolescents, and adults. He uses cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to assist clients in working through emotional struggles. Carlos received his Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Webster University.
Andrew Gibson has been an artist, educator, and organizer since he was a teenager. As the Executive Director and co-founder of Freedom Arts, Andrew directs all fundraising and marketing campaigns, participates in all programs, supports staff in day-to-day operational and programmatic tasks, facilitates workshops and classes, and mentors the youth.
Director of Program Integrity
Miles Dela Cruz is an artist, educator, audio engineer, and mentor who has a wealth of experience working in multiple creative, educational, and technical fields. As Director of Program Integrity and co-founder of Freedom Arts, Miles organizes programs and events, trains teaching artists and tutors, mentors and tutors youth, and facilitates many Art & Academic Workshops.
Nikki Ellis is a performing and teaching artist who has worked in the creative nonprofit space for more than 10 years. As a key Teaching Artist, Nikki supports the youth of Freedom Arts and our partner organizations, and also assists with event design, marketing campaigns, and fundraising initiatives.
Eric “Prospect” White is a teaching, performing, and recording artist whose creative hustle and advocacy for youth makes him one of the most in-demand facilitators in St. Louis. Having been a Teaching Artist for Freedom Arts since 2015, Prospect mentors the youth and facilitates music, creative writing, and multiple educational workshops and classes.
Jay-Marie Hill is a sought after musician, educator and "creative mind asking the questions that will shape the future of culture.” A Bay Area born, St. Louis based Black & Boricua award-winning artist, Jay-Marie has worked at high levels in the arts, education, and policy sectors for over 20 years.
Maya Foster is a St. Louis native singer, rapper, DJ, and model. After graduating from University City High School, Maya immersed herself in the world of musical theater before shifting her focus to music performance in 2015. She quickly became an in-demand singer throughout St. Louis backing up several major artists, headlining with her own band, and opening for international stars such as Jason Derulo, Nelly, Ashanti, & Melanie Fiona.
Garrett Lacy is a St. Louis native percussionist, composer, and educator. After graduating from Ritenour High School, Garrett went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Entrepreneurship from Webster University in 2013.
Youth Artist Organizer
Tysean Brown is a St. Louis native poet, musician, and emerging organizer. Starting out on the drums, Tysean discovered a talent for both music and the written word, and has released several songs and dozens of poems.
On the way...
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