Catholic Charities in the News

As the charitable arm of the Diocese of Phoenix, we help the most vulnerable in seven counties in Northern and Central Arizona.

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Free Arts Creates Five Murals Celebrating Resilience at Catholic Charities Housing Communities

Unique Artwork Painted at Shelters and Affordable Housing Properties

Phoenix, Ariz. (Oct. 16, 2020) - Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona and Catholic Charities have been partnering for over 25 years. In the latest collaboration,, Free Arts partnered with five teaching artists and five alumni to paint murals at several Catholic Charities sites: Ironwood Village, Rosewood Court, Desert Willow, Laurel Tree and the Administration offices where unaccompanied minors and foster care programs are held.

“We engaged residents in a creative and hope building project to raise spirits and celebrate their individual and their community’s resilience,” said Marisa Arellano, Program Manager at Free Arts. “It’s been an amazing experience to see what each community designed.”

Five Free Arts alumni, ages 16 to 25, participated in this community mural project. They worked alongside teaching artists and strengthened life skills such as collaboration, creative expression and communication skills. The teaching artists for this project were Kristin Wesley, Isaac Caruso, Francisco Garcia, Skye Lucking and Linda Pulinisi.

Rica, Free Arts alumni said, “It was oddly nostalgic to work on this mural. There was something about the vibrant colors on such a textured wall that brought me back to daycares and apartment complexes, when I would spend hours tracing the painted shapes until my fingertips calloused and telling stories to myself. Younger me would have been absolutely mesmerized by the mural, “A New Day Together”. Seeing the reactions of the children who live there was the best part of it. The realization that their own drawings were included in the mural lit them up like individual suns!”

Free Arts has partnered with Catholic Charities since 1995 providing transformative arts programs to children in their Maricopa County program.

“We recognize the inherent dignity and resilience of the residents and recipients of Catholic Charities services whose struggles include domestic violence, shelter insecurity, and the uncertainty of traveling and integrating into a new country,” said Malissa Geer, Sr. Director at Catholic Charities. “This project is inspiring and healing for our residents and team members. We’re proud to continue partnering with Free Arts — we know art really does heal!”

Past projects include:

  • The creation of a ceramic mural to celebrate the opening of Catholic Charities social enterprise, The Refuge Café in 2014.
  • Ongoing programming for unaccompanied minors and foster families through Catholic Charities. Projects include multiple music and art-making workshops.
  • The incorporation of Catholic Charities unaccompanied minors young adults into Free Arts’ Alumni program.
  • The creation of a mural and community garden improvement project at Rosewood Court apartments in 2018.
  • Participation of more than 2,000 children in Free Arts programs since 2014.
  • Distribution of hundreds of Grab-and-Go virtual art bags during Covid-19.

Precautions, such as masks and social distancing, were taken at each of the five locations to ensure the health and safety of all artists, alumni and residents.

About Catholic Charities Community Services

Since 1933, Catholic Charities has been “Helping the community’s most vulnerable with solutions that permanently improve lives.” We serve more than 20,000 persons annually throughout central and northern Arizona to protect and nurture children, strengthen and reunify families, shelter the homeless and abused, welcome and assist refugees, aid those in crisis and help the impoverished. Our programs support veterans, sex-trafficking survivors, victims of domestic abuse, refugees and those experiencing homelessness. Services for children and families include foster care, adoption, pregnancy counseling, youth development and early childhood education. For more information on Catholic Charities, visit:

About Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona

Founded in 1993, Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona is a non-profit organization which transforms children’s trauma to resilience through the arts. Free Arts programs include creative elements that promote safety, self-expression and a sense of belonging. Free Arts programs are delivered by 900 volunteer mentors and artists who serve more than 8,000 children annually through partnerships with 43 social service child welfare agencies at 100+ sites across Maricopa County. For more information on Free Arts, visit:

Contact: Lindsay Hansen
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