Students bring art to Memphis community


Aayush Jain

A poster advertises TAI’s free art classes. Chang and Jain created this colorful flyer to help spread awareness about their non-profit organization.

Grace Chang (11) and Aayush Jain (11) plan to help students across Tennessee achieve their artistic goals through their new organization, the Tennessee Arts Initiative (TAI).

TAI is a non-profit founded by Chang and Jain that provides basic art lessons and kits to students in need. . 

“I think it’s important for us to address those communities and bring art to them because art has helped us both a lot so we want to bring that joy to them as well,” Chang said.

Last summer, the idea of spreading the joy of art was born. Being both Memphians and artists, Chang and Jain put their heads together and developed a plan to give back their experiences to the community.

“We’ve both been doing art in Memphis for a while,” Chang said. “Since middle school, we’ve been participating in competitions and other things so we just wanted to bring that sentiment to other people because we know there’s a lot of people who don’t have that many opportunities.” 

Interested students can apply for classes on TAI’s website. The application is short and approval should only take a couple of days. Once enrolled, students receive kits in the mail, full of all the necessary art supplies and 10 free weekly lessons, conducted through a virtual platform.

“I started an Etsy shop when I was an underclassman and it was for personalized portraits, so I thought if we can give personalized kits to these students and then teach them … that’s how I got the inspiration for the kits,” Jain said.

Throughout their years in the Memphis art community, Chang and Jain have noticed that not many people are willing and able to be a part of it. A student’s family income is one of the main obstacles of not participating in art.

“I noticed a lot of stuff [ art competitions, programs, supplies, etc.] was correlated with incomes, for example, in competitions the winners were usually correlated with income because … they have lessons from a very young age and they could afford art materials,” Jain said.

Academics are prioritized over all of the arts, schools’ money goes into academic programs before art programs. Other fine arts, like music and theater, are supported here in Memphis, but the visual arts are lacking recognition.

“Usually academics are prioritized but there are a lot of students who might not want to go on an academic path … it’s unfair to only provide academic resources because they could be interested in other things they haven’t gotten a chance to be exposed to,” Chang said.

After lots of preparation, TAI Lessons began on March 20, 2021. 

“Recently we recruited some students so we are starting that very soon, actually this weekend,” Chang said. “We are going to be meeting our students and tutoring them ourselves first, and then once we expand a little, we might hire other people to do it as well; and all of this will be on a volunteer basis because we want to provide free classes.” 

A similar non-profit based in Texas focuses on painting murals throughout the state, and heavily influenced Chang and Jain’s plan for action, with the non-profit’s future including a local mural, expanding further into West Tennessee, and partnering with small local businesses.

“We also wanted to do a mural as well because I think a mural is a really good community-building activity and it helps kids really get invested in art and really want to participate in it … everyone’s working together and it’s fun and they can kind of bring their own ideas into this big piece,” Chang said.

Chang and Jain are the only art tutors at the moment but hope to recruit more volunteers in the future. They are also searching for graphic designers, who will help design logos, merchandise and the website, and staff writers, who will write blogs and emails reaching out to potential sponsors.

“To be an art tutor you should have experience with art and we would ask them to send us a portfolio of art they do,” Jain said. “And then for a staff writer, we already had someone apply and we did an interview with them and we had them submit a writing portfolio with some writing samples.” 

The dynamic duo will always be open to new students and hope to see more enrolling.

“We want to make sure that they show some sort of passion for art … we’ll accept our students and then we will do an introductory class with them and then based on that we will see if they really want to be there and then we’ll ship our boxes and then go on from there,” Chang said.

COVID-19 has shown no mercy to TAI. The new non-profit has had trouble lifting off because of its financial situation.

“Right now we are low on funding because we weren’t really able to reach out that much, especially during COVID … The best way to support is to donate. We do have a donate page … we basically use the funding for buying the art kits and for our website,” Jain said.

Once funding and social circumstances are adequate, TAI will begin fulfilling their goals of expansion and outreach.

“Our overall goal is really just to expand our education in our community and hopefully expand it to the statewide level … and we hope to continue it even after that because I think if we really do succeed in bringing kids together with art, especially in different communities, then I think this will be a good thing in the long run,” Chang said.


Their website can be accessed here: tennessee arts initiative (