Columbia woman brings the arts to underserved children

Auntie Karen Foundation video

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Karen Alexander, founder and CEO of the Auntie Karen Foundation, is working to enrich the lives of South Carolina children, especially those in rural communities.

According to their website, the Auntie Karen Foundation’s mission is to create and implement a series of reproducible community outreach programs designed to empower, enlighten, and educate through the arts.

Alexander quit her corporate job and started the foundation 18 years ago. She works solely with volunteers and independent contractors to bring programming to children across the state.

Through events like the young entrepreneurs conference, “Legends of ...” Salute to Black History series, which has brought artists like Roberta Flack, Sheila E., and the Isley Brothers to the Midlands, and characters she created, like Gordon, the overweight, pre-diabetic Jamaican yam, Alexander’s foundation encourages kids to live healthy lives and harness their creativity.

The Auntie Karen Foundation focuses mainly on children in rural areas because they are typically the most under served when it comes to arts education and programs.

“When we started working in Bishopville, those kids hadn’t had arts for seven years,” Alexander said.

In her 18 years so far, Alexander estimates she’s been able to reach and impact at least 20,000 children. She boasts having some the children she’s worked with go on to win national awards or become notable fashion designers which has been very rewarding.

“You get to live what God has purposed you to do and at the same time you get to help others live their dreams,” Alexander said.Alexander hopes to one day take her efforts global but first she plans to deepen her roots in her home state, South Carolina, even more.

“I am looking forward to creating a series of platforms called Auntie Karen’s Place and basically a safe-haven for kids, an artist village incubator where local artists can teach their skill sets to kids in a centralized location,” Alexander said.

If you’d like to learn more about the Auntie Karen Foundation and their programs visit

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