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Arsh Pal, 12, sells his art for charity. He has raised about $15,000.

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Arsh Pal had bold ambitions when he started selling his artwork at the age of 8: he wanted to raise $1,000 for a good cause.

Four years later, he far surpassed his goal. Arsh, now 12, has sold hundreds of his acrylic and watercolor paintings, grossing more than $15,000. Other than a small portion he takes to buy supplies, every dollar has gone to charities that support children.

“Young people have the power to change the world,” said Arsh from his home in Dubuque, Iowa, which is also his art studio.

Arsh has always been artistic, his mother said. When he was a young boy, Divya Pal and her husband, Sanjeev, enrolled their son in extracurricular activities such as piano, karate and gymnastics, but “he would gravitate towards the arts,” Pal said.

For his eighth birthday present, the Pals bought Arsh a watercolor set. He spent all his free time in front of a donkey.

“That’s how I started painting,” he said.

Soon a pile of finished canvases started piling up, “so I decided to give them away to friends and family,” Arsh said, adding that he also showed some pieces at his school that people were asking to buy.

Around the same time, Arsh regularly visited a local nursing home, where his mother works as an occupational therapist. Spending time there inspired him to start selling his art for charity.

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“Just talking to the residents and the people there made them smile and it really made me smile at the same time,” he said. “That thought made me want to help people in need through my paintings.”

And so began his fundraising initiative, which he called “Art by Arsh.” He sells his paintings at local art fairs, restaurants and libraries, as well as on his Instagram account and Facebook page.

He donated his first $1,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2018 and has since expanded his reach to support several other charities, including Easterseals, Compass to Care, the Riverview Center, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Arsh mainly contributes to child-oriented organizations, he said, because “I wanted to help children.”

Though he stopped counting a long time ago, Arsh said he estimates he’s sold about 500 paintings in the past four years.

The price of his work, he explained, varies based on size and complexity. For example, small pieces have sold for $10, while larger paintings—which can grow up to five feet—have sold for $800. He auctioned two pieces at a charity event last fall for a total of $10,000.

“That’s very impressive,” Pal said, adding that she and her husband are stunned by their son’s dedication to the project. “He’s doing a fantastic job. When he started doing all this, we never thought it would go this way.”

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Arsh mainly uses acrylic paints to produce his art, but he also works with watercolor and mixed media. He especially enjoys creating abstract pieces.

“You can express yourself through abstract art,” he said. “Everyone thinks differently about it.”

Arsh now mainly makes commissioned pieces and several of his clients have come back wanting more.

So does his neighbor, Jolene Schaver, who has five of Arsh’s creations hanging in her home and has bought many more for friends and family.

“I can’t stress enough how wonderful he is,” said Schaver, who is retired and lives next door to her husband and has known the Pal family for seven years. “I was amazed at how talented he was at such a young age, without any formal training.”

In addition, she added, “he has such a generous and generous heart.”

Arsh’s artwork is scattered throughout their home and Schaver’s favorite piece is a silhouette of two elephants, which can be seen in her dining room.

“I would never know it was done by a kid,” she said.

Arsh likes to be detailed in his art, and larger pieces can take a month or more to complete. Although Arsh never took art classes as a child, “my mother helped me,” he said. “She’s probably my main teacher. Me and her learn techniques together. She just helps me get better.”

Pal and her husband also manage the logistics elements of Arsh’s initiative. They coordinate with customers, arrange for shipping and supplies, and make sure all money goes to charities of Arsh’s choice.

“It’s teamwork, but it’s all worth it,” Pal said. “We want to support him, especially if it helps someone.”

“He never asked us if he could keep the money,” she continued, adding that Arsh has been asked by his colleagues why he doesn’t buy himself expensive new gadgets and toys with his hard-earned money. “He’s not influenced by what others say, he influences others with what he does.”

He has received several awards for his community service, including the Diana Award in 2022 – presented annually to a group of young people around the world for their humanitarian work.

“I feel very honored,” Arsh said.

The organizations he has supported are also grateful to him for his contributions.

“I’m always so encouraged to see the enthusiasm of a child who wants to do what they can to help other children in need,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., president and chief executive of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Judas. “Kids like Arsh help raise money to ensure families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food so they can focus on helping their child in life.”

“By channeling his generosity through his creativity, it makes even more sense to us because art therapy is part of the holistic treatment offered in St. Jude and helps inspire and warm the hearts of so many St. Jude patients,” he said.

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In addition to selling his paintings to nonprofits, Arsh also teaches art at Stonehill Communities – the nursing home where Pal has worked for nine years. His younger brother, Yuvan, 7, helps teach classes, which are held several times a year.

“They’re always excited when I come to teach them,” says Arsh, who has also volunteered at other nursing homes to teach art classes.

“It just touches my heart,” Pal said, adding that the residents of the nursing home regularly inquire about her sons and look forward to their visits. “He’s a kid and he inspires adults.”

Arsh’s teachings have made him think about accessibility, and how not all people have the resources to make art—that has the ability to comfort and heal.

“One of my future goals is to make art accessible to children who want to express themselves,” Arsh said.

He has already started offering free art classes to local kids and hopes to expand his classes in the future, including on his YouTube channel.

“I want to help the community and spread kindness,” he said.

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