What It Is

Heard contracts with local artists to teach creativity and life skills disguised as art to marginalized adults who may be in recovery, survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, LGBTQA, older adults, immigrant, incarcerated, or transitioning from incarceration or homelessness, through its partnerships with Alexandria and area nonprofit and local government organizations. We also offer services to families and youth.

Heard began in 2017 and is free to onsite program partners and their voluntary clients. We offer clients a safe and trust-based environment to express themselves. Each program includes classes at the program partner site, with the class length and duration determined with the partner. A typical program includes up to 12 clients and runs 4-6 weeks for 1 ½ – 2 hours in length, although some programs are one-time or occasional events.

Heard offers programs in creative writing (fiction and non-fiction), journalism, poetry, visual arts, improvisation, etiquette, dance, singing, and public speaking. Additionally, we sponsor an annual writing contest at the Alexandria Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Facility. These programs are all designed to offer our clients an opportunity to be heard, recognized, and honored through creative expression, and to build an environment of trust and safety for the participants.

Heard is a nonprofit organization and was created by Jane Hess Collins, an Alexandria resident and retired colonel, United States Air Force. In addition to serving as Heard’s executive director, she is a coach and communications consultant, and holds a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University.

How It Works

Heard gives marginalized adults the opportunity to be heard under the guidance of professional artists experienced in working with at-risk adults. Classes begin with a review of class guidelines, then may include warm-up exercises, prompts, instruction and exercises, feedback, and other support if requested by the client. The program gives clients the freedom to share their art if they wish. Verbal sharing is always an option, but it is ultimately up to the client to decide whether to share.

Heard honors our artists-teachers and respects their profession and craft, so they are paid for each class. We know (and hugely dislike) that artists are often expected to share their time and talent freely or negotiate the price of their work when other professionals receive their asking price without question.

Heard designs programs based on the program partner’s objectives and gives them the opportunity to showcase successes in reports and grant writing.

In addition to learning and developing their own creativity, Heard programs clients may develop one or more of these life skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-confidence in themselves as they gain control over their situation by learning to shape their own stories
  • Self-esteem as they recognize that they and their stories deserve to be heard
  • Increased decision-making skills as they learn to focus through fine-tuning their art
  • Conflict-resolution skills as they learn “Yes, and” and other improvisation techniques
  • Increased empathy as they listen to the stories behind each other’s artistic expressions
  • New life skills to apply to life decisions
  • Inspiration to live independently, move forward in their lives, and fulfill goals they have established for themselves

Heard is an arts program, not a therapy program, and we are not trained to handle a client who becomes extremely stressed. Since participating in creative arts may trigger some of our clients, we ask that a therapist, case worker, or trained program partner staff member ensure that clients are emotionally prepared to participate in the program.

Heard clients must be able to speak, read, and write in English at the fourth-grade level unless your organization can provide a translator. We do not offer transportation or childcare.

Donations, Speaking Events, and More Information

Click here to make a donation online.

Please continue to browse through our site to view our clients’ creative work, or to donate, participate, or discover how you can create a similar organzation in your community. You may also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @heardnova. And, our executive director, Jane Hess Collins, loves to talk about Heard and its impact, and she would be an insightful guest speaker for your next event. Just complete the “contact” button on the right.



Thank you for your interest in Heard. We look forward to working with you!

Creative Writing

Visual Arts



Public Speaking