Art Inspired Academy: Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Written by Kristen Lentz | Photographed by Matt Loveland

Back in March and April, I had an amazing opportunity to be involved in our community in such a fun and inspiring — if you will — way. The Art Inspired Academy held five weeks of classes for teenage and young adult ladies called “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Over the span of these five weeks, girls learned how to create vision boards of fashion they love, hair and makeup tricks, wardrobing, runway walking and so much more. At the end of the classes, we held a fashion show during April’s First Friday Art Walk in Springfield, Missouri where the ladies would strut their stuff in the outfits they chose! With differing activities each week, I loved how these girls felt more and more comfortable in their own skin, as well as with each other.

Each month, the Art Inspired Academy has local artists showcase their artwork in the gallery, and are highlighted at First Friday Art Walk. The event center hosts creative arts classes such as theater, music, movement and art classes for people with varying abilities. My connection to the academy is through my dear friend Jamie McGranahan. I’ve known Jamie and her family for 12 years, and she’s the one who lead this particular class. I felt the Girls Just Want To Have Fun class and fashion show were a huge success, and can’t wait to be a part of more! In this article, you’ll find interviews with Jamie, and one of our very own Deitra models, as well as pictures from the wonderful Matt Loveland.

Emma Elliott is a local actress and model for Deitra Magazine.

Interview with Emma Elliott, Deitra Model and local actress:

Deitra Mag: How did you get involved with these classes?

Emma Elliott: Jamie McGranahan’s lovely daughter, Austen, told me that her mom was wanting to start modeling classes at Art Inspired Academy and asked if I’d be willing to help out with runway walks and posing.

DM: What was your favorite part?

EE: I loved how excited the girls got after a while of pampering! It was so fun watching them walk around full of confidence. These girls would leave class talking about how beautiful they all were, and how they wanted to model for a long time.

DM: If given the opportunity, would you be a part of classes like these, or others, with Art Inspired again?

EE: Art Inspired has a theater program they do that I would absolutely love to be a part of!

Jamie McGranahan, on left, is the Project Manager at Art Inspired Academy.

Interview with Jamie McGranahan, an Inclusion Specialist, and Project Manager at Art Inspired Academy: A Program of Abilities First.

DM: What was the goal or meaning behind the Girls Just Want to Have Fun classes at the Art Inspired Academy?

Jamie McGranahan: Our goal was two parts to allow young ladies an opportunity to learn about beauty and themselves. We wanted this to be for all ladies of all abilities, learning and growing in self-awareness together. For some women in the disability community, there has been limited experiences of learning about their inner and outer beauty. Beauty products and services can be expensive so being pampered and having the opportunity to learn about makeup, hair and more can be a first time experience in the disability community, so we wanted to provide this opportunity. The second part was to show our community that people of all abilities are beautiful. An inclusive fashion show, people with autism, people using wheelchairs, all on a runway with everyone else was our goal!

DM: What was process behind setting this up?

JM: I saw a story about a model in Atlanta teaching young ladies with down syndrome how to walk and to pose for pictures. I wanted to do something like that, but something for people of all abilities. Art Inspired Academy is all about making the arts available for all people, and modeling is an art. We have a resale store, Inspired Boutique, so we had a way to find clothes to model and a place to do it. The problem was, I had no idea how to teach this, so I began to look for people to help. We were blessed with a Missouri State University intern from the fashion design department. I made some contact with friends that sold make-up, and asked the amazing lady, Kristen Lentz, that cuts my son’s hair. (You see, I am a mom of a 25-year-old son who is deaf and has autism.) A friend of our program is a photographer, and finally my daughters friend from Little Theatre is a model. I put together a team and they were magical! They may have only known a little bit about developmental disabilities but they knew how to love, show compassion and sass in the same moment. For five weeks, we covered topics about beauty, how to find clothes that fit you best, hygiene and skin care and learning how to walk as a model!

DM: What was your favorite part about these classes?

JM: So many amazing things happened in five weeks. I saw ladies come in week one shy and scared. Each week, they come in with a bigger smile, more stories and made friends with others. One young lady who uses a wheelchair for mobility was unsure about the whole process, but each week she came back to the class, smiling and began to share that she had been designing clothes for her needs and others, with the help of her nurse. Her designs were beautiful. After sharing with the other ladies, she began to relax and she rolled that runway like a champ.

DM: Could you elaborate on inclusion and why it's so important?

JM: We must have inclusion in our community. People with a disability and their families no longer want to be segregated from others. They want to live, work and play together in our community. The whole goal of Art Inspired Academy is to provide opportunities for all people. Sometimes people with disabilities need more support and that’s what we provide. We offer classes in multiple medias of art, music therapy, theatre and movement. We partner with children’s groups to provide opportunities, and are willing to train our community about inclusion and disabilities. We are working to tackle education and opportunity with every class we plan.

DM: What kind of feedback did you hear from the girls who attended?

JM: Honestly, we received the best response we have ever had from a class. The surveys and students' responses were 100% supportive of all we did. One of the ladies' mothers said she had seen a difference in the way her daughter walked and how she introduced herself to others. I had two men attending the runway event ask about making a runway ramp for future shows. I think sometimes little feedback like that is valuable. These classes were such a hit, and seemed to be successful.

DM: If given the chance to have something like this again, what do you think you'd do next?

JM: I’ve already had calls for this class to happen again in the fall, and I’m sure we will try again. Each group of students is different, but I can’t imagine not giving others this opportunity. After the class, we had several young men and their families asking about a class for boys with the similar structure. So, we are currently looking for a business that sells men’s clothes so we can offer the same education about clothing shopping, and how to purchase clothes that fit your body. We cannot do this class without volunteer help so I would challenge anyone that has a desire to share their time and talents with others, give us a call.

More photos from my experience will be on the Deitra Mag Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Art Inspired: A Program of Abilities First Facebook page. Feel free to check them out, and contact Jamie McGranahan if you’re interested in volunteering for future programs! Contact through the Art Inspired website,, or by calling 417-868-8084.

Art Inspired is located at 230 South Market Avenue in Springfield Missouri. Business hours are Monday - Friday from 10am to 5:50pm.

Kristen Lentz is the Beauty Director at Deitra Magazine, Stylist at Salon Plus Inc. and Artist for Sexy Hair. Follow her on Instagram @kstylistlentz.

More About Kristen Lentz

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