Susan M. Anderson
Founder | Director Emeritus
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011
Susan Anderson’s original area of interest and education was in chemistry, educated at Virginia Tech and the University of Delaware. For many years she worked for companies such as DuPont and Hoechst in polymer research and development. After leaving this industry, she became an active volunteer with community organizations and projects such as Junior League, Project Open Hand, shelter ministries, and local arts programs in Atlanta, GA. In 1990, Ms. Anderson launched her own company called ArtistiConnections, Inc., which represented artists from around the world.
Later enrolling at the Atlanta College of Art she was introduced to the field of art therapy, which ultimately led to her understanding about how art can assist in the emotional healing process. As a result, in 1999, she began The ArtReach Foundation, where she designed, organized, and implemented this international non-profit’s first five-year mission in Bosnia-Herzegovnia that began in 2000. Through her efforts she independently raised funds to support this groundbreaking initiative.
Ms. Anderson has appeared on numerous CNN television programs regarding her work with ArtReach, as well as a special feature on “Breakfast with the Arts", A & E Entertainment, in January 2005.
18 years ago Ms. Anderson visited Bosnia which changed her life. For the first time, she witnessed the destructive effects of war on children and adults firsthand. “Slowly I closed down my business to pursue a nonprofit venture that gave greater satisfaction to my life.” she says.
In 1999 she founded The ArtReach Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) based in Atlanta, Georgia which uses the creative expressive arts therapies of painting, music, drama, dance and writing to help children recover from trauma caused by war, violence and natural disaster. ArtReach brings their programs into schools and communities so children can express themselves creatively, and in the process recover from trauma.
The innovative model Susan Anderson developed aims to cultivate creativity, hope and resilience in the participants without forcing them to retell the actual traumatic events of their trauma.
Bosnia’s Ministry of Education estimates that over 250,000 children benefited from the ArtReach programs in the five years the organization operated in that country. Since then ArtReach has expanded to Lebanon, Jordan, Haiti and the United States, where it assisted Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Arkansas and Georgia. In 2009, Anderson initiated a program to bring expressive arts therapy workshops to war-affected U.S. military personnel, their families and health providers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. This program has so far served 750 participants through a veteran peer-training program.
In February 2011, she partnered with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), to study the ArtReach model’s impact before launching a national training institute in Atlanta. Since 2015, ArtReach began working with international refugees in the Clarkston, Georgia community and with local NPO's of at risk youth who are vulnerable to homelessness and violence.
Susan remains involved as Founder, Director Emeritus and historian of the many successful years of work with The ArtReach Foundation.
Susan M. Anderson | AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
In 2003, ArtReach Founder, Susan Anderson was honored to receive the Artemis Award from the Euro-American Women’s Counsel, presented to her in Athens, Greece, for her humanitarian work with ArtReach Bosnia. In addition, a cadre of 30 “Bosnian ArtReach Trainers” continues today to take this sustainable program to other teachers in their country and abroad.
2007 The Jordan National Gallery, FAM, and the Royal Society of Fine Arts, Jordan, named the Foundation as the Presenter of the US Tour of a major art exhibit called “Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World”. This two-year opportunity gave a platform to speak on ArtReach’s mission, brand, and vision for our ArtReach: Middle East Institute Training program.
Finally, ArtReach received one of 10 special invitations from President William J. Clinton to become a member at the Clinton Global Initiative. As a result, The ArtReach Foundation made a major, three-year commitment to humanitarian progress within the MENA region. ArtReach also committed to expand the MENA training to roughly 4,000 educators and professional caregivers of 200,000 children affected by the trauma of displacement, war, violence and natural disaster.
2009-2012 In 2011, our Founder & CEO, Susan Anderson, was selected as a Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures (now Encore) as well as the Alif Institute Distinguished Service Award. Both awards were created to recognize individuals for improving their communities and the world with their energy and passion. In 2012, Anderson was also selected as a Front-Line Scholar at the TEDMED conference in Washington, D.C. and is currently working with TEDMED on potentially becoming a future speaker so that she may spread the ArtReach vision.