NEW YORK, N.Y. (PIX11) – Art can do many things. It can heal, help prosper, and educate, but art activists say the benefits aren’t reaching those who need it most.

A 2014 report by the New York City Comptroller found that 419 schools in New York City, or nearly 30 percent of them, did not have a full-time certified art teacher.

Jeremy Del Rio is the executive director of Thrive Collective, a nonprofit arts education provider.

“Kids overwhelmingly in low-income communities of color lacked any sort of arts education, and for us, that was the impetus,” Del Rio said.

The organization is celebrating a big milestone after painting 300 murals throughout public schools and communities over the last nine years with the help of 25,000 students.

Their goal is to eradicate artless education.

“The same communities that birthed hip-hop 50 years ago are overwhelmingly the ones that are under-resourced in arts education, not because they aren’t overflowing with creatives and talent but because institutionally, there’s been fracture and divide,” Del Rio added.

They’re working to bridge that divide and leverage the creative capacity of the neighborhood.

During quarantine, they connected with P.S. 155 and the Renaissance School of the Arts in East Harlem to paint a mural in the summer of 2020. Today, there are now four murals. They’re also working on their second original hip-hop song and music video.

Justin Guanilo, a 6th grader, is learning to rap through the organization’s RHYME program.

“My favorite part of the program is that I’m able to write my feelings into the rap,” Guanilo said. “It builds character and allows kids to be creative, and it doesn’t destroy their creativity.”

Whether painting a mural or learning music, the arts are helping children think about their future.

“I’m grateful for that because me practicing my rhyme, not only has it helped me, but it could help my family,” Guanilo added.