Culturas Corner highlights individuals who make their community a better place through their work, business, volunteering or activism. Today we hear from Isabell Bogosian, who started The Sasha Project LA with her daughter Sasha. The nonprofit organizations helps heal patients of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles through art by raising funds and awareness.
Can you give us a little background on the inception of The Sasha Project LA?
My 12-year old Sasha has been living with cerebral palsy (right hemiplegia) since birth. Four years ago, Sasha started to paint a pair of my jeans for therapy and fun and eventually started to paint them for donations supporting her non profit organization, The Sasha Project LA. For a donation, Sasha will paint your jeans or any denim item. 100 percent of the proceeds support the Mark Taper-Johnny Mercer Artists Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where Sasha receives treatment. This innovative art therapy program gives thousands of patients the opportunity to express themselves through visual arts, music, dance and theater. Art therapy is not covered by insurance or Medicaid. It is solely funded by philanthropic efforts. Sasha has had art therapy at CHLA and knows how important it is to keep the program secure.
Why is art an important part of healing, especially for kids in hospitals?
I strongly feel that sometimes it takes more than just medicine to heal a child. Research has shown the benefits of art therapy include decreased stress and anxiety, lowered blood pressure, increased coping skills and self awareness, minimized pain perception, improved communication with staff and strengthened family bonding and attachment. Sasha has had a couple of week-long stays at the hospital and has experienced art therapy at CHLA. It was incredible to see how much it helped her get through her long days at the hospital.
We read Sasha prefers art on denim over a traditional blank slate. Why does Sasha prefer clothing as a canvas?
Sasha is passionate about art and fashion. She loved the idea of painting on an item that typically isn’t painted. Nothing made her happier than seeing me proudly rock my one-of-a-kind jeans designed by her! I have had a long career with Levi’s, so my denim inventory was very good! When people started asking me about my “Sasha” jeans, the idea of painting denim for donations sparked in Sasha’s mind. She was only 7 years old at the time, but knew exactly where she wanted funds to go.
I wanted to also mention the therapeutic part of painting jeans. Sasha lives with CP right hemiplegia, which is a one-sided weakness. This denim painting art project was originally my attempt to get Sasha to engage her weak side (Children who live with hemiplegia, will do anything to avoid using their affected side). Sasha needed to use both sides of her body to create her denim designs. So not only was this a very fun activity for Sasha, it was also highly therapeutic.
What future plans or goals do you have for The Sasha Project LA?
We are working on building a Splatter Squad: a team of kids and teens across the country who would like to join Sasha’s mission to help raise awareness and funds for the art therapy program at CHLA and eventually all pediatric hospitals across the country. We hope to partner with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to help make this a reality!
What is your favorite cultural memory?
I would have to say visiting the Statue of Liberty for the first time with Sasha one year ago. She loves to learn about American history, and was fascinated to hear the stories of her grandparents’ life-changing journey to America. They traveled by ship and came through Ellis Island.
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