Art for Refugees in Transition Art for Refugees in Transition
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“A child is supposed to be growing up protected from the world. They should be playing and learning. If your life is interrupted so fundamentally, you are denied the basics needed to grow up healthy.”—Francis M. Deng, United Nations representative on internally displaced people.


Art for Refugees in Transition (A.R.T.) helps rebuild individual and community identity for refugees worldwide. Drawing upon the indigenous art forms of each community, A.R.T.s programs are designed to enable the elders of a culture to educate and incorporate the younger generation in their cultural traditions. By developing self-sustaining curricula and training programs, A.R.T. engages children and adults in visual, performing and creative arts drawn from their own cultures.


ART was conceived in 1999, as a response to the ongoing turmoil in the Balkans. Refugees, fleeing the raging warfare were flooding into safe towns. A.R.T.'s founder, Sara Green, earned her MBA at Columbia University with the idea of applying business model skills to the world's refugee populations. She saw fear and hopelessness in the faces of children who had had their childhoods stolen away. But every child loves to sing and dance, to play and feel free. Sara's hope was that, by finding their childhood through their unique ethnic expression, these children could become more than lost refugees. In 2001, she went to Kosovo to work with these children. After several years of research and development, A.R.T.'s initial program was launched in two Burmese refugee camps in Thailand in 2003.


“Over seven million refugees have lived in camps for 10 years or more.”—43rd World Refugee Survey, U.S. Committee for Refugees.
Long after international relief organizations have provided food, clothing, shelter, medical care and sanitation, hapless refugees so often languish in camps that are little more than human warehouses. Once basic relief is provided, the refugees need help to create and maintain their sense of community, and to prepare them to get on with their lives in a strange country. Here is where A.R.T. steps in, developing a specific curriculum for each group, based on the refugees’ own indigenous arts, helping them to re-establish intergenerational relationships rooted in their own culture, and thus giving them the impetus and tools to rebuild their communities. A.R.T.’s programs are designed to affect the lives of children and adults living in refugee communities in a number of ways:

  • Cultural preservation – Away from their home towns and villages, refugees are in danger of losing their indigenous customs and culture, and with that their group identity; leaving their children with an even more impoverished future.
  • Personal development – Children will benefit both from keeping their culture alive and from the self-expression and healing that will emerge from their involvement with their community’s arts. Being part of a community brings with it the prestige of being entrusted with its heritage and directly affects the self-esteem of the children who participate. It helps empower them, training the children to take on future leadership roles. Adults, especially the elders, in turn find new purpose in passing on their traditions to the children. Our experience so far has shown overwhelming enthusiasm from all who are asked to participate.
  • Community building – The refugees themselves decide which art forms will be taught and passed on to the youngsters. A.R.T. acts merely as a facilitator, with the interests of the children as its primary focus. Adult artists in each community are trained by A.R.T. staff to implement the program, thus helping to establish respect by the younger generations for the tribal elders, to rebuild intergenerational relationships, and to encourage the refugees to recapture the roots of their community.

Management Team

Sara M. Green, Founder and Executive Director of Art for Refugees in Transition, A.R.T., received her MBA in Finance and Economics from Columbia Graduate School of Business. She holds a BFA in Dance and a BA in History from the Ohio State University. Ms. Green has seven years of experience in management, fundraising, development and strategic planning for non-profit art organizations, including The New York City Ballet and Dance Theatre Workshop. Ms. Green danced professionally for 10 years in Europe and the U.S. In 2011, Ms. Green was awarded the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship. Her work with A.R.T. has been featured in several books, including More Than 85 Broads, by Janet Hanson and The Art of Doing Good, by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon.

Katharine Stevens, Director, Curriculum Development, Ms. Stevens is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institutes (AEI) where she leads the early-childhood program, focusing on the research, policy, and politics of early-childhood care and education. Prior to returning to graduate school she founded and served as Executive Director of Far Bound, a New York City not-for-profit organization that recruits and trains high-quality new teachers for public schools in low-income communities. Her previous experience includes seven years as Director of the Venture Consortium, an association of colleges and universities based at Brown University that provides career exploration and public service programs to students and alumni. Ms. Stevens received her B.A. in American History from the University of Chicago, an MBA in Management at Columbia Graduate School of Business, a Masters and PhD in Education Policy from Teachers College.

Advisory Boards:

United States

ART’s Advisory Board includes international development professionals, financial experts and legal advisors.
Susan Barnett, Media Strategist
Peter S. Green, Journalist
Victoria Harmon, Senior Advisor, Governor of New York
Jennifer P. Holt, Chief Executive Officer, Building Markets
Margaret Pomeroy Hunt, Chief Development Officer, The Shed
Carolyn Kissane, Professor, New York University
Jane Lowicki-Zucca, Consultant, Child and Youth Protection and Development in Conflict and Post-conflict
Kourosh Mahboubian, Principal, Kourosh Mahboubian Fine Art
Natalie Napierala, Attorney-at-Law
William Petroni, Managing Director, Cristin Tierney Gallery
Robert S. Green, Attorney-at-Law
Marjorie Spitz, Marketing and Development Consultant
Naomi Vladeck, Development Consultant

Special Thanks to:

Cecilia Mejia;
Janet Hanson and 85 Broads for their continued personal and financial support;
The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children;
Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, Columbia University Graduate School of Business: Prof. Murray Low and Prof. Clifford A. Schorer;
The Caring for Colombia Foundation;
Graphic Systems Group;
International Rescue Committee: Marie de la Soudiere, Director of Programs for Youth in Armed Conflict;
Frances and Gerard Guillemot;
Ambassador Jeanne Kennedy Smith;
Prof. William Dugan, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University;
Melissa Dusenberry;
Natalia Sanchez and Alejandro Ramirez;
In warm memory of a very special person: Mary Diaz, Executive Director, The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, (1961 - 2004)

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