Essential Art was founded by Michelle Finnegan as the culmination of all her studies, world travels and life lessons. It was a way for Michelle to combine all her volunteer work into a format that flowed with her unique gifts and talents. The mission of Essential Art is to promote education through the arts. Essential Art raises money through the sale of art and cards in order to provide much needed community programs.
Michelle Finnegan was born in Boston. Michelle was interested in the arts at an early age studying classical ballet and writing childrens books when most people her age were still reading them. Supported by her parents, Michelle was educated at several of the finest schools and participated in several artistic programs in which she painted, sculpted, and showed her photography skills, winning a number of awards for her work.
Michelle studied at a variety of locations including Stonehill, UMASS and Amherst College. Although the crux of her concentration was in Social Theory and Political Economy, she maintained a special interest in childrens literature. Working for major corporations, international hotels, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Michelle also derived much of her education through real life experience before returning to the School for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where she focused on her photography then went on to produce a film she wrote.
Michelle has traveled extensively and studied in many countries and continents, including the US, Europe, South America, and Africa. She has served as a staff reporter and Medical Service Coordinator for internationally acclaimed organization, Healing the Children, traveling with medical professionals who treated children around the world with serious physical deformities. Michelle’s interest in helping children also encouraged her to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to young children with serious illnesses. For more than ten years, Michelle raised money for this organization and was trained and certified as an official wish granter.
Michelle works with many other charitable causes focusing on the needs of children, the protection of the environment, and international causes for freedom, justice and the understanding about differences and similarities in all walks of life. Michelle’s humanitarian work was recognized in 1999 by, Amitie Sans Frontieres (Friendship Without Borders), an international group promoting basic principles of justice, tolerance and friendship – which awarded her a medal of recognition and asked her to open a new chapter for the group.
Michelle’s concern for the environment encouraged her to lobby for the protection and development of parkland and green space. She successfully lobbied the Massachusetts House of Representatives to raise awareness of environmental concerns along the Neponset River Valley, resulting in a major clean up project of parkland stretching 10 miles and connecting Boston’s Emerald necklace. Michelle has worked as a docent in the Nature Discovery Center at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to promote and facilitate augmented public knowledge of the eight major ecosystems of Southwest Florida. She also worked with the Friends of the Public Garden’s Rose Brigade, taking care of the beautiful roses in Boston’s famous Public Garden, where she likes to take a stroll whenever she’s in town.
Since late 1999 into 2000, Michelle’s paintings began turning real hand prints into works of art. By this time, instead of the global travelling and humanitarian pursuits that occupied much of her time, her concentration was within the US. Michelle saw too much suffering and red tape at home and concentrated her efforts on helping local organizations. Michelle had several shows on Earth Day at the Conservancy of SWFL, and everywhere from LA, CA to Dallas, TX to Boston MA. She has participated in shows for the Greenspace Alliance, Boston Parks and the Beacon Hill Garden Tours. Ironically, a film Michelle wrote and produced to raise awareness for the lack of justice women receive when crimes are committed against them only to have her friend who starred in this film be murdered by a repeat offender. A foundation was started in her friends name,the Ally Foundation.
When the US launched its War on Terror and sent troops to Iraq, Michelle created Caring Cards from America as an effort to support our troops whether citizens at home believed in war. Michelle thought it was imperative to support those who were following orders and working to defend our freedom. Each card was personalized and given to members of the armed forces in person or in care packages that were coordinated through the Marine Corps League of Naples and sent to the troops in Iraq. In 2005, to further commemorate those who fought for our freedom, Michelle personalized cards for all WWII veterans who registered in Collier County and had their oral history preserved.