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InsightArtful Inclusion: Sonia Pupavac’s inspiring journey

Artful Inclusion: Sonia Pupavac’s inspiring journey

Every Saturday, Sonia Pupavac welcomes local kids into her home, giving them the materials and confidence to express themselves through art. Her flexible and supportive approach allows her students to choose what they create and how.

As a child, Sonia’s parents sought an outlet for her to hone and enjoy her natural artistic ability. Unable to find any art classes for kids, she ended up in a class for adults. “I loved it – my teacher was this wonderful Italian man. He gave lessons from his garage, and he had a huge impact on my life. I still have one of his paintings on my wall – it’s very sentimental to me.”

Ten years ago, Sonia sought a creative outlet for her teenage son. “He isn’t a sporty kid, but he loves drawing. I wanted a class where he could find his place and build confidence in his natural abilities.” In a case of déjà vu, she couldn’t find a local class catering to children. Instead of giving up, Sonia decided to take action. “In Australia, there are numerous sporting opportunities for kids, but what about artistic children? What was available to them? I’m grateful I found my calling in graphic design – I wanted to share my love of creating with kids.”

Today, in a specially built studio on her semi-tropical acreage in Ipswich, QLD, Sonia runs ‘Artepants’. Every week, she welcomes up to twenty kids aged between nine and seventeen to paint, draw, stipple, glue, sketch, splatter and blend – their only limits are the resources at hand, the duration of the class, and the scope of their imaginations. “Whatever they want to use, I encourage them… it can be their fingers or toes, it doesn’t matter – just as long as they’re proud of their creations”.

Crucially, Artepants caters for children of all abilities. In Sonia’s classes, many students wear headphones to overcome sensory challenges and participate comfortably in an activity they love. For those who struggle with a paintbrush or pencil, Sonia recently purchased a Cricut machine, spending her evenings creating stencils, “It’s been a hit so far – they’re really loving it!”.

By taking her son’s experience and transforming it into an opportunity for change, Sonia has created an inclusive, accepting and liberating environment for kids who might struggle to fit in elsewhere. For her colleagues at TSA – well acquainted with Sonia’s warm and colourful personality – it’s easy to imagine the energy and joy she brings to her classes.