Our Mission

Heard is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster creativity, confidence, self-worth, and life skills to adults, families, and youth in need who are underserved, unknown, and unheard by offering them artistic expression through experiential instruction and participation.

What We Do

Heard contracts with local, professional artists to meet the needs of program partner nonprofits and local government organizations in the Alexandria area. We teach creativity and life skills through art to adults, families, and youth in need who may be in recovery, survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, LGBTQA, older adults, immigrant, incarcerated, or transitioning from incarceration or homelessness.

Heard offers programs in acting, creative writing (fiction and non-fiction), dance, etiquette, improvisation, journalism, poetry, public speaking, spoken word, visual arts, and singing. 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 began in 2017 and received its 501c3 designation in 2019. 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 60-75 minutes in length, although some programs are one-time or occasional events..

How It Works

Heard designs its programs based their program partners’ requests. This allows Heard to support its program partners’ goals, as well as support their clients.

Heard is an arts program, not a therapy program. Since participating in creative arts may trigger a client, we ask that a therapist, case worker, or trained program partner staff member ensure that clients are emotionally prepared to participate in the program. A Heard art teacher may contact a staff member if a client’s comments or behavior is inappropriate or unusual.

Heard gives those in need in need the opportunity to be heard under the guidance of professional artists. Classes 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.

Heards professional art team is experienced in working with people in need. Our art team is compensated for their work, as we respect them, their profession, and their craft.

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

Heards outcomes are:

  • People in need experience a safe, trust-based, non-judgmental, respectful environment to express their creativity
  • People in need are exposed to a variety of arts in a hands-on, experiential format focused on artistic expression (not therapy)
  • People in need enjoy expressing their creativity and feeling heard.
  • People in need develop the tools and support to develop or improve life skills like self-awareness, self-confidence, decision-making, conflict resolution, and empathy
  • Artists feel like they are making a positive difference in the lives of our Heard clients. Artists feel valued and respected for sharing their time and talent, including compensation, administrative support, inclusion as team members, training, and professional satisfaction
  • Program partners receive arts programming support to meet their own goals and outcomes through a trust-based relationship with us

Donations, Speaking Events, and More Information

Click here to donate. 

Heard was created by Jane Collins, an Alexandria resident and retired colonel, United States Air Force. After serving as Heard’s first executive director, Jane now supports the organization as the board secretary and continues outreach. She holds a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. Jane loves to talk about Heard, its impact, and how you can create a similar program in  your community. She is a charismatic and motivating guest speaker for your next event. You may contact Jane at outreach@heardnova.org or complete the “contact” button on the upper right of this page

In November 2023, Heard welcomed its second executive director, Kelly Carnes. She brings years of experience in the DC arts scene and looks forward to expanding the reach and community support of Heard. Contact Kelly at director@heardnova.org

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 organization in your community. You may also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @heardnova.

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

Creative Writing

Visual Arts



Public Speaking