Be 1 Self art program in Cleveland with Ricky Meredith

Artist Ricky Meredith says he knows the feelings of being left out as a child.

CLEVELAND — In our “You Are Not Alone” mental health series, we do a lot of difficult, but important stories. This one has a more inspiring tone.

Meet the artist who is using art and self-confidence to improve the mental health of college students in northeast Ohio.

“What would you like to draw today?” asks artist Ricky Meredith as he walks through a classroom at Riverside Elementary School in Cleveland.

It’s been a busy summer for him. Through his “Be 1 Self” program, he visited several area schools to teach art classes. But that’s not all students learn.

“I go to school, and we bring all the kids together and they’re social and bond just by being in a group, being encouraged and feeling better about each other. That’s the most important part of the framework,” he explains.

Between learning paint strokes and colors, kids learn the mindset that Meredith uses in her daily life to boost her self-confidence and improve her own mental health.

“So the theme of the whole workshop is creativity plus self equals life. So that’s them as artists,” he says.

This mentality carries Meredith through her own life. A few years ago, he lost part of his sight in an accident at work, putting him in a difficult situation. As a child, Meredith took special education classes, which made her feel different from other children.

“So I know what it’s like to go to the canteen, and all the kids are there and you’re trying to fit in,” he says. “You only have a short time to do it, and it’s quite difficult to achieve it.”

Pouring his own reflection on the children he serves inspires Meredith again. He currently teaches classes of approximately 50 children from first grade to juniors in high school.

“Watching the kids come together and have a social connection is the most important thing,” he says. “When I’m with them, I feel like a kid because I’m a big kid. It’s just fun.”

Meredith also teaches the same adult classes and even went to college for a while. He hopes to create an app where kids can showcase their work and people can browse and buy it all in one place. For now, you can follow him and find out about the courses on his to place.

Editor’s note: The video in the player above was originally published in a previous story on July 15, 2022.

Kayleen C. Rice