Teen's Work: 'Art In A Box'

After budget cuts gutted arts programs in California, a teenage girl - who is considered one of the brightest stars in the artistic universe - found a way to bring arts education back and the results are truly beautiful. CBS News Correspondent Tracy Smith reports.

When Alexandra Nechita appeared on CBS News Sunday Morning in 1995, she was a cute, precocious and incredibly talented 10-year-old.

At one of her exhibitions, it was hard to believe that the vibrant abstract painting style came from someone so young.

Back then, a gallery visitor said, "I wonder what she'll be doing when she's 19?"

Wonder no more.

Alexandra, now 17, is starting college in the fall. She's still creating art and now, helping new artists. When school art programs were cut by the budget axe in California, Alexandra was appalled.

She recalls, "The canvases were taken away, the brushes were taken away, the paints were being taken away, crayons, paper, all that."

So, she started filling boxes with art supplies and donating them to schools for free.

Alexandra says, "It's such a great and big program but the idea is so, so simple and it's just the box and supplies and you take them and use them however you want.

She calls it art in a box. And she pays for it. "So far it's all been me," she says.

The program has grown beyond the California border: Last week, she donated a ton of supplies for kids in New York City.

Harriet Taub, director of Materials for the Arts says, "We're thrilled with Alexandra's donation because it means that a lot of students will get material that wouldn't have gotten to them before because their schools couldn't really afford that."

The New York City school district brought in a group of kids to take their new art supplies for a test drive as Alexandra encouraged them to start painting with temperas.

It actually took a while for the inspiration to kick in. Before long, the whole class was painting up a storm - or clouds, anyway.

All of it was good. Some of it was really good. Some of it was more, shall we say, marketable: Alexandra's work typically sells for 20 grand a pop. But when it comes to this program, she's not in it for the money.

She says, "I don't want to say that I serve as encouragement to youth but I think it does make all the difference when someone sees another young person doing something and making a difference and the whole idea of one person can do something definitely comes to life."

So far, Alexandra has put about $40,000 of her own money into the project.