Heart to Heart

A heart-to-heart conversation with Catherine O’Neill Thorn, inviting a response from our supporters.

The Colorado Sun

Colorado Sun Article

Thank you to poet, activist and Art from Ashes board member Theo E.J. Wilson for this wonderful piece in The Colorado Sun!

The Colorado Sun

Poetry program helps inner city kids navigate their way past depression and suicidal thoughts


Catherine O’Neill Thorn Honored As A Westword Colorado Creative

100 Colorado Creatives are chosen by journalist and artist Susan Froyd for the Westword honor and published on their site (below). You can read the Executive Director of AfA’s thoughtful and often irreverant ideas on the state of the arts in Colorado and her personal motivations and inspiration for her work. Susan’s Facebook post is also linked below.

Click here for the story in Westword

Click here for the Facebook post

2018 Westword Article

Catherine O'Neill Thorn is a Colorado Creatives in all the best ways, as an eloquent writer, speaker and poet, as well…

Posted by Susan Froyd on Monday, December 3, 2018

2018 Holiday Letter

Hopefully you can join us for the holiday party on the 4th (invitation below)!

Meanwhile, here’s what we have to share during this wonderful season of light:

(read the pdf of our 2018-Annual Request Letter or read text below)

Happy Holidays from Kumi!  

My name is Kumi, and I am 18 years old. This holiday season, I’d like to share my story of transformation with you.

Before Art from Ashes, I was just an empty shell named Kumi, and I had a degree in making bad decisions. Now I’m getting a different kind of degree at CCD, thanks in large part to Art from Ashes! 

I was full of creativity, hidden behind a door barred shut by my enemy Bipolar Disorder. I was frustrated, depressed, ecstatic, and powerless. Imagine trying to defeat a monster with only a bottle of pills, the wrong kind of friends, and bad love relationships. Doesn’t make much sense, right? 

But then Art from Ashes came to our Creative Writing class at Endeavor Academy. I was so excited about how easy it was to let out my creativity in the form of poetry. I didn’t really ever do much poetry before, so it was new and interesting…and soon it became my favorite thing to do. 

I finally had something new to fight my monster with and you better believe I felt empowered! I felt strong with my new weapon and confident in my new skills. I learned the power of my voice as I read my poetry to the people willing to listen, and I learned how to conquer my fears. And with Art from Ashes, I learned to help empower others, as well.

Art from Ashes was able to come to Endeavor Academy because of generous donations from community members just like you. I’d like to thank you for your support and ask that you please consider financially supporting Art from Ashes this holiday season so that more youth can experience empowerment and transformation through art and poetry.

—Kumi Avila, Youth Representative to the Art from Ashes Board of Directors

Here’s what your generous donation provides:

  • At Art from Ashes, we believe in paying artists! Your donation of $50 provides an honorarium for a guest poet or artist to inspire and motivate the young people in our workshops.
  • We spend more than $1000 a year providing an honorarium to youth who perform their poetry for the community! Any amount you designate can support that goal!
  • We believe in healthy food and LOTS of water for youth. Your donation of $50 will provide enough food and water for one 2-hour workshop for up to 20 young people! How many workshops would you like to support?
  • A monthly donation of $100 will provide writing and art materials for four of our weekly drop-in workshops, held every Wednesday (Phoenix Rising) and Thursday (Drawing on Air Creative Time).
  • A one-time gift of $2000 will support a year’s worth of weekly workshops for a struggling youth. 
  • A one-time gift of $5000 will provide the cost of an 8-workshop program for 20 youth ($15/hr. per youth), which would include operating costs as well as program expenses.
  • Of course, we would very much appreciate any amount you’re willing to donate!

Does your employer match your donation? Please let us know!

And we hope you’ll come to our Annual Celebration of Light Party on Colorado Gives Day, Dec 4th from 7 to 9 pm at Art from Ashes, 1310 west 10th ave, denver

Happy Season of Light from the board and staff of AfA! 

We hope you enjoyed Kumi’s powerful story of transformation. Stories like Kumi’s, and the stories we’ve heard from countless other young people over the years, remind us why we exist and inspire us to continue this important work. Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 4th—a day that allows our generous donors to contribute towards that beautiful goal. During that 24-hour period your donation counts more than any other time.

Speaking of years…on October 10, Art from Ashes celebrated its 15th anniversary! That’s 15 years of young people discovering their creative genius through our unique and innovative programs. At Art from Ashes, we believe that by discovering their creativity, young people are empowered through art and poetry to find their voice, change their stories, and transform their lives. And as numerous studies and our own surveys have shown, it works.

In 2018, Art from Ashes experienced a few transformations as well:

  • AfA won the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture! This prestigious award is given to organizations that make significant and lasting contributions in the City and County of Denver. What a great way to celebrate our 15th anniversary!
  • AfA merged with Violet Hive’s Art As Healing youth program, a nonprofit organization that shares our belief that art facilitates empowerment and healing. Founder of Violet Hive, Amy Leiter, joined the AfA staff; Bridget Hofstadter of Violet Hive is now our volunteer coordinator; and both are trained Phoenix Rising facilitators who have expanded our weekly Creative Time drop-in workshops!
  • Our programs and the work we do with youth in the community were highlighted on CBS4 and Fox Network, helping to send our message of hope and transformation to thousands of people.
  • AfA hosted and facilitated a workshop for the World Denver Iraqi Youth Delegation.
  • AfA has now partnered with more than 180 organizations to serve nearly 13,000 young people! 

In addition to our ongoing workshops in the community and weekly on-site workshops, young people have shared their stories and their voices at a number of events in 2018. Some of these events include monthly First Friday performances at AfA, the Mercury Café’s 30th Annual Poetry Rodeo, the Youth Voices in Recovery poetry performance, and AfA’s 9th Annual Running of the Gays. Additionally, two of our youth poets were featured at the 2018 Denver Women’s March, where they performed in front of thousands of people! 

Seeing the magic happen in workshops and watching the transformation of both youth and community members during performances and art shows re-ignites our passion for the work we do and leaves us energized for a groundbreaking future:

  • Next year Violet Hive artists and AfA staff will expand the Drawing on Air curriculum, which is built on the foundation of our award-winning Phoenix Rising program.
  • Of our existing trained facilitators, two are professional dancers interested in expanding and facilitating our Wingspan program, which we hope to launch by the end of 2019.

Our programs are magical, but we can’t soar without you. We hope you will help us meet our goal to serve even more youth in 2019. Please consider making a holiday contribution to provide creative empowerment workshops to the young people in our community.

With gratitude and joy,

The Art from Ashes staff, board, facilitators, contractors and volunteers

Catherine O’Neill Thorn, Celeste Seiler, Bridget Hofstadter, Sarah Lanzarotta, Samantha Albala, Savannah Arterburn, Tiffany Bowden, Amy Leiter, Marie Verrett, Carolyn Klier, Lewis Lease, Jessica Jarrard, Susie Martin, Johnnie Thorn, Kumi Avila, plus 63 interns, volunteers, and guest poets/artists!

PS. For those of you who have been supporting, praying for, and thinking of Catherine as she has journeyed through this difficult past year, you can find her medical update on our website here:

Catherine’s Cancer Treatment Update

Friends have made the difference between life and death.

Hi, there, friends of AfA!

It has been 14 months since my diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer and it’s been a freaky, frightening, enlightening journey.

For those of you who want the short and sweet (and it is sweet):

Many of the initial test findings were incorrect (stage 2, HER2-negative, misplaced markers and an erroneous treatment plan), and over the course of several months, I was given numerous bad news bulletins from my incredible oncologist at CU Health: Turns out I was not stage 2 but stage 3, possibly stage 4 (turned out to be stage 3… phew!); I did, in fact, need four months of chemotherapy, plus surgery, plus six weeks of daily radiation; on top of that I tested as HER2-positive, not negative, which meant another year of infusions (currently in my 5th month!) and a lifetime supply of anti-cancer meds.

BOTTOM LINE: I am alive and cancer free!!

With the help of some awesome people (see the annual holiday letter for several of those names, but there were many, many more), I have continued to work throughout it all and managed to weather the resultant storms. It certainly has been quite a bit of work—fighting for my life and fighting to ensure the agency fulfills its mission takes some effort. Although AfA didn’t do as well as we could have financially, it also could have been a helluva lot worse if it weren’t for the people surrounding me with love and capably holding the agency.

Funders have been forgiving and helpful; donors have been loyal; the new staff members believe in our mission and walk the talk of kindness and compassion; facilitators faithfully serve the youth; board members and other volunteers have played a significant role in our success; the young people keep coming through the doors; and the stats remain impressive. Not only that, but we were just notified that we have won the 2018 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts! Pretty cool accomplishment after a pretty rough year.

For those of you who wish to know a few of our other accomplishments in 2018, please read our annual holiday letter, which gives a quick rundown of what we’ve been doing. In February when all the data is in, we’ll publish our annual report with more detailed information.

Thank you so much for your support of our agency, which helps me continue to fight for myself. I couldn’t do it without all the love I’ve received.

If you’d like to give a year-end gift, please do through ColoradoGives or Paypal Giving Fund ❤️

Here’s something I wrote for my friends recently when the struggle was seemingly ongoing:

A little more than a year ago I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I’ve been wondering for the past several weeks what I wanted to say about that. Something to mark the anniversary of the day I realized I may not live the future I had imagined for myself—or may not have a future at all. I can’t settle on anything in particular other than to be grateful for all the love and support I’ve received in the past year and oddly to be grateful for those who couldn’t provide anything. Because I’ve learned a lot about relationships during this time. As someone who believes that relationships are the entire reason we’re on the planet, this has been quite the spiritual education.

So here’s what I am grateful for:

All the people who jumped in and did what they could to help me stay afloat while I was reeling from the news. 

All the people who came alongside me while I suffered through one painful treatment after another. 

All the people who sacrificed their time and their money to keep me alive (quite literally…staying alive is expensive). 

All the people who popped in and out with a word or a meal or a present or poem or gift of service. 

All those who left. And who were unkind. Because now I know. 

All those who did the REALLY difficult work of being with me when my mind was in despair. Because hanging out with someone who is angry or depressed or discouraged is usually harder than hanging out with someone who is physically ill. And I have been both at the same time. 

All those who helped keep Art from Ashes going when I wasn’t able to give as much as was needed.

All those who forgive me. 

And those who are still here. Who haven’t given up. Who continue to show up. Who realize my journey isn’t over and have not grown tired of being with me. You have taught me the most about how to be like Jesus in the world. Because I usually forget to do that myself, and it’s so much easier to see when you are the one in need.

By summer of 2019 I should be done with my treatment and my oncologist says I will have my energy back. I will always have pain and some difficult effects from the fight for my life, but he says he is pretty sure I’ll be cured at the end of all this. While nothing is certain, I can’t express enough how blessed I am for the role my friends—and the occasional stranger—have played in this life and death drama I found myself starring in. 

I will continue to fight. And I will continue to laugh. And I absolutely will continue to be a pain in the ass and do many things badly and do a few things right.

young man reading his poetry

CBS Denver Features Art from Ashes

Art from Ashes youth and executive director were featured on CBS4’s This Morning Show on March 26, 2018


Coffee with Catherine

COFFEE JERKMeet and Greet with Catherine O’Neill Thorn, Executive Director of Art from Ashes, who’ll be available for questions and conversation every Saturday from 1-2 pm*

*Just in case there’s a cancellation due to inclement weather, illness or travel, please email email hidden; JavaScript is requiredfor confirmation or check our Facebook page!

AfA Featured on Colorado & Company


Catherine and youth poet PJ Sykes on Colorado & Company in 2013

Catherine and  a youth poet will be featured on Colorado & Company, on Channel 9! Tune in for the youth performance!


COCOTune in to Channel 9 Colorado & Company on Dec 30th between 10 and 11 am and catch an interview with Art from Ashes Executive Director Catherine O’Neill Thorn and youth poet and board representative Khalid El-Shabazz!


Boulder International Film Festival

C2A circle logo_shadowArt from Ashes has been selected as the first Nonprofit Partner in the Call 2 Action program of the Boulder International Film Festival 2015! A collaboration of Boulder International Film Festival, Philanthropiece Foundation, the Twisted Foundation, and committed local leaders, Call 2 Action offers concrete ways for filmgoers to take the energy and passion inspired by film and move from concern to action. Because of our agency’s connection with the Jimmy Santiago Baca film “A Place to Stand,” Art from Ashes has been provided a platform “to raise awareness for the incredible service that [you] provide for our community by introducing the power of poetry and art to transform lives.”
Art from Ashes will introduce the film at 10am on Sunday, followed by the screening.

Post-screening, there will be a TalkBack (Panel discussion) in the “TalkBack Cafe” just across the street from the Boulder Theater on the Pearl Street Mall. The TalkBack is open to anyone who wishes to find out more about the film and our work with youth, and will feature Jimmy Santiago Baca, Art from Ashes Executive Director Catherine O’Neill Thorn, and Art from Ashes youth poet Prinjastin Sykes.

Download the program here. (we’re on pages 15 and 35 :D)
 Boulder International Film Festival March 5-8 in Boulder and the film “A Place to Stand,” based on the life of Jimmy Santiago Baca, at 10am on Sunday the 8th!

Buy tickets here!

Tattoos and Poetry

Get tattooed for a cause on Feb 7! All proceeds from the All Sacred Foundation fundraiser are donated to 4 amazing organizations: Art from Ashes, Art of War, Phoenix Multisport and Planned Pethood International.

Between the hours of 5 and 11 pm, there will be DJ’s; youth performances and writing/art prompts by Art from Ashes; prints and shirts for sale; and donation based massage! Drop in and hang out with us, have a good time, and learn about All Sacred Foundation and the organizations they support.

(check out the All Sacred Foundation Facebook page to book a specific tattoo artist or just drop in!

        allsacred-8allsacred-3allsacred-2 allsacred-5

Adult Introductory July-Aug

BreneBrownThe Phoenix Rising process is designed to allow participants to recognize their inherent creative power and how perception affects our identity and our reality. Art from Ashes uses the latest research in left-brain/right-brain functioning and the role of creativity in transformation to encourage participants to access the creative subconscious and the power available through artistic expression. The introductory workshop allows adults to experience the same curriculum delivered to the youth participants and find their own power through creative expression and personal transformation.

Workshops are limited to six people.

The investment in adult workshops of $175 per 6-week series helps support our work with youth.

Visit out Adult Workshops page to sign up: adult-workshops

At the Inkwell Poetry Reading

It’s February and love and poetry are floating like bits of annoying flotsam and jetsam in the atmosphere. But not for this event. At The Inkwell Denver returns February 16th to the Book Bar (and bar bar!) and kicks off 2019 with only the best in poetry and all its raw, honest darkness. Organized and hosted by Hillary Leftwich! At the Inkwell

Featured Readers Include:

Two youth poets from the Phoenix Rising program at Art from Ashes, plus AfA’s founding director and CEO Catherine O’Neill Thorn. Catherine has conducted poetry and spoken word workshops for youth and adults since 1992. She established and ran weekly poetry sessions for three years for Columbine students and the aftermath of the Columbine shooting and in 2000, produced Screams Aren’t Enough, a compilation of Columbine student poetry, which won the Colorado Book Award. She is a published poet, writer and journalist and was the proprietor of O’Neill Publishing. She served as a poetry judge for both the 1994 Colorado Book Award and the 2007 Poetry Out Loud national competition among high school students. She was the editor and publisher Inner 303, an arts and poetry magazine for Denver’s urban youth, from 1997 to 2001, and the inspirational book/journal for youth Why Keep Tryin’? Voices from the Street. 

Ashley Cornelius is a performance poet in Colorado. She graduated with a master’s in International Disaster Psychology from DU. She focuses on providing creative therapy for adolescents through poetry therapy and is currently working as a therapist in Denver and lives in Colorado Springs. Her poems reflect her personal struggles and journey as a young black woman navigating the changing world. She aims to inspire, empower, and tell a story of truth and depth. She has won four Hear Here Poetry Slams in Colorado Springs. She was the Women of the World Poetry Slam Colorado Springs Representative and competed in Dallas at Nationals in March 2018. Ashley is an organizer with Poetry 719 and has planned multiple community events in Colorado Springs included the Poetry 719 festival. Ashley was nominated for two 2018 Pikes Peak Art Council (PPAC) awards and won best recurring poetry event. Ashley is committed to using poetry as a platform to speak up and out for marginalized groups and be a voice for those who have been silenced.


Robert Kloss self-published his two most recent books. He is currently writing about murder.








Jay Halsey’s poems, prose, and photos have been published in several online and print journals and a handful of anthologies. Most recently, his hybrid piece “Predator and Prey” was nominated for Best of the Net by Menacing Hedge, and his short story “Hard and Harder” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Cowboy Jamboree. His photography has been used as cover art for poetry collections and novels, featured in fundraising campaigns for the Rocky Mountain Land Library in Fairplay, Colorado, and was part of a touring exhibit featured at libraries and bookstores throughout France to represent Editions Gallmeister’s American authors. He was born and raised in Dayton, OH and has lived on the Colorado Front Range for the past 12 years.




Ben River is a Denver local non-binary latinx who also lives part time in New Mexico. They do work as a writer/poet/activist/painter working mostly in immigration, story telling, and gender bending.