Our History

Art For Life's Sake (AFLS) has provided arts access and musical exposure for mainly at-risk children and youth for two decades. AFLS was founded in 1990 by Dr. Hattie Isen while she worked as an elementary counseling supervisor for Memphis City Schools. Her experience and research convinced her that training in and exposure to the arts would empower students who may be at risk of making choices that are counter-productive to a healthy future. Although AFLS programs are available to young people regardless of gender, race, family income, ethnic background, religious traditions or disabilities, the organization's main mission is to create opportunities for under-served and under-represented children to have access to the arts. Programs are aimed at children ages 4 to 14, with pre-K children reached by special projects. Programs usually occur in inner-city neighborhoods. Four ongoing AFLS programs offer arts and musical training (with attendant performances, recitals) and have reached a total of more than 700 students.

Our Mission

Many urban children, especially those of color, have limited access and exposure to the arts. The mission of Art for Life's Sake is to create opportunities for
under-served and under-represented children to have access to the arts.

Our Beliefs

Art for Life's Sake believes that every child is creative and talented and should be nurtured in an environment that promotes the arts, talent development and expression for an enriched childhood and productive future.

Our Teachers

Portia Furlow

Portia Furlow
Ms. Furlow has played the violin for almost 40 years. She has recorded and performed in various ensembles in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Puerto Rico. Ms. Furlow received her Bachelor of Arts in Instrumental Music from Rhodes College and Masters of Music in Suzuki Pedagogy from University of Memphis. She currently is working on her Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. Ms. Furlow is a member of the National Recording Arts and Sciences since 2000. Of the 7 years in Memphis City Schools, she worked 4 years in strings orchestra where she returned in the fall of 2012. She currently teaches privately and performs at Bellevue Baptist Church. Ms. Furlow has also worked in Dekalb County Public Schools for 4 years until 2007 where she still assist string students. While teaching in a music studio in Atlanta, GA, she taught Suzuki violin in a Montessori school and was an account manager, teacher, and trainer for Kindermusik. Ms. Furlow recently returned to Art for Life’s Sake as a string instructor. She believes that you need to do whatever necessary to help children learn. Her philosophy is that learning should be structured fun. Ms. Furlow has 2 boys, six and seven years old.


Philip Joyner, Jr. Philip Joyner, Jr.
Mr. Joyner graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Music degree from Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. Mr. Joyner performs throughout the mid-south as a soloist and leads or is active with various ensembles ranging from duets to rock bands to symphony orchestras. In addition to bringing his soul-full music to thousands at the famous Peabody Hotel, Mr. Joyner has conducted bands and orchestras for over thirty years. A creative and progressive teacher, his student orchestras have consistently earned superior awards at district festivals, and his students have regularly earned awards on the local, state, and national levels. Through the years he has enjoyed work with the Memphis community as past-president of the Memphis Youth Symphony organization and with church and civic duties. In 2010 Mr. Joyner rejoined the Arts for Life Sake organization as a music instructor. His hobbies include aviation as a commercial pilot and Spanish studies. A distinguished individual, he is one of only two National Board Certified teachers in secondary music education in Shelby County. His orchestral and conducting experience lends excellence and verve to any orchestra program. Mr. Joyner returned to AFLS a few years ago as a strings instructor and conducts the orchestra.


Ann Spurbeck

Ann Spurbeck
Mrs. Spurbeck earned a BA of Music from the University of Miami in Florida and a Master's degree in Music Education from Indiana University. She taught orchestra and strings at Lausanne School from 1973 to 1983. Currently she is on staff at Rhodes College. She provides private string lessons in Forest City, Arkansas, and in Memphis. Mrs. Spurbeck is a long-standing member of the Memphis Symphony and strings quartet. She has been employed by AFLS as a strings instructor and piano accompanist since 2003.

Our Goals

Art for Life's Sake seeks to:

  • Recruit, develop and strengthen AFLS Board of Directors through professional development to enhance highly-committed leaders
  • Recruit and train a pool of volunteers in order to have sufficient supporters available for fundraising and program activities
  • Recruit professional artists and teaching staff to assist in developing and delivering fun and creative arts programs
  • Solicit annual private and corporative donations to support full needs-based scholarships for qualified students
  • Using the web as a platform, strengthen AFLS capital with conversation that connects with the mission
  • Strengthen the artistic quality of AFLS Chamber Group, programs and performances
  • Plan and build an AFLS string orchestra by year 2015
  • Expand community awareness of AFLS as a source of quality arts training and academic enrichment for Memphis area students
  • Expand outreach efforts to ensure arts access to a larger and diverse population
  • Solicit support for building AFLS audiences