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Personal Story

I was always labeled as a weird kid, being awkward at socializing and spending most of my time with my hobbies and learning new things, all of which happened to be arts-oriented. I loved dancing, particularly ballet and Japanese traditional dance; I loved music and playing piano; I loved looking at and making beautiful sugar art crafts; I loved playing video games and experiencing different worlds; I loved exploring the world and photographing it; and I loved visiting museums and communicating with artworks with my mind and imagination… 

Aside from my obsession for the arts, my life has also been defined by many hardships. I was born the fourth of five siblings, and we moved from Tokyo to a rural area in Nagano. There, we were bullied at school, and were almost completely excluded from society simply because we were considered outsiders. My eldest sister is autistic, which added our "otherness" and became another reason we were excluded by our community. One by one we were mentally destroyed, which resulted in our being homeschooled, a practice still not well accepted today and with many detracting opinions. Besides the bullying, I also have experienced racism, sexism, have been in an abusive relationship, and have considered (and attempted) suicide on more than one occasion. 

Talking about negative feelings/experiences is not so easy. It was art that gave me freedom, providing me with the space to express my inner emotions outwardly. 

I have often wondered what the best way would be to combine my past experiences as well as my cultivation in the arts. Then one day, the idea of heARTists suddenly came to me. Since then, I am incredibly thankful to have many creative artists onboard who are happy to help make my vision come alive and watch it expand step-by-step. 

There is still a negative stereotype in society that portrays people who go to therapy as crazy or mentally-ill. I want to create a society where people can easily talk and share about mental health without being stigmatized. I want to transform their negative or traumatic experiences into something positive that they can be proud of, using the power of art. And I want to create a place where many people can come into contact with various art forms no matter their background. The strength of my belief in this idea comes from my own journeys, struggles, and transformation through art. In a way, we are all survivors and I would love for as many people as possible to experience the same so that they can embrace and accept themselves as a whole.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” If I can leave a positive mark on just one person, that would be meaningful for me.

Now, it is time for you to celebrate your journey and share it with us. We, the heARTists, will create unique artwork inspired by your unique story; something that will offer to all the chance to experience your world and your story, and all the benefits of compassion and empathy that come with it.

​With lots of heART,

Founder Misaki Saito

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