SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Savannah artist is making it her mission to create a memorable summer for some young students, and she’s doing it with art. Sonja Robinson is building interest and engagement one paint brush stroke at a time.

Anijah Grantham is 11 years old,  and she’s excited about going to the 6th grade. But when she returns to the classroom in the fall, she will be taking something very special back with her. She and other students from the Savannah area are now budding artists thanks to a special program aimed at helping them discover a love for the arts.

“These children are very deserving,” Robinson said. “We have a lot of artists, a lot of creatives in Savannah, and I felt this program would actually bring their creativity to light.”

At the Whitfield Center on 37th Street, these young Picassos and Van Goghs are on a creative journey. Thanks to Urban Hope’s summer art program, campers are getting a step-by-step lesson from Savannah Artist and Art Gallery Owner Robinson.

She describes her knowledge of art as a winding road that led her through some really tough times.

“My dad was tragically killed, and I had issues with grieving and coping, but found my way through the arts,” Robinson said.

An introduction to art therapy pulled her out of her sad places and now Robinson is expanding her budding artist program to nonprofits like Urban Hope. The program is already being implemented in Chatham County schools.

Putting bright colors to canvas and making masterpieces is not just creating art, it’s an opportunity to heal, reflect, and build meaningful bonds. 

“So, therefore, I teach that to children, a way to grieve and to cope with everyday stressors and things like that too,” Robinson said.

During my visit, I enjoyed watching students on the porch engage by incorporating landscapes into their lessons.

“I like that it helps you be more creative. Like helping your creativity go wild,” budding artist Anijah said. 

Now, Anijah is thinking about pursuing a career in art.

“I’m painting Elizabeth’s over there across the street,” Anijah said.

Inside, I found these young artists creating Noah’s Ark with assistance from Savannah artist and founder of Urban Hope’s art program Bill Rousseau. He thinks Sonja is a perfect fit to engage these students.

“This year Sonja’s taking over for me,” Rousseau said. “She’s doing a fantastic job, and she’s got so much energy and all that kind of stuff, and I’m kind of running out of it. So I figured we’d get some new blood in there.”

The budding artist program also teaches entrepreneurship. Something Sonja tells me she did not have growing up.

“I wasn’t encouraged in the schools to be an artist if that’s something that I wanted to do,” Robinson said. “But these children have a better way. They have someone who owns an art gallery, and I do inspire them to be entrepreneurs.”

Robinson continued, “In Paying It Forward, I believe these are. The children are our future. If I can’t instill in them all that I have then what am I here for?”