stART some hope and healing.

stART some hope and healing.

I champion stARTistry because I believe it will change the world. Starting things makes us stronger, smarter, lighter-of-foot and more creative. Best of all, stARTing has healing powers.

I am reminded of this when I conduct art therapy sessions at a local domestic violence shelter. Each time I gather with these courageous women, I learn something new about the power of new beginnings.

Every few weeks, I hold a class of 6 to 8 women who are housed in the shelter with their children. They have left their homes and belongings out of fear, with no plans of returning. They arrive to reside in small, no-frills rooms with no thoughts of beginnings – only of ending what is unbearable.

Most of the women show up to art therapy reluctantly, at the encouragement of a case worker. They begin timidly – too timid to ask questions or make choices of colors or projects. Sometimes I have to push their hands to make a first brush stroke.

But once they begin, they seem transformed. They begin moving forward with an adorable, awkward confidence. One by one, they begin contemplating what they really like and what they want to do next. They feel the power of choosing and creating and the permission to start over. Some rush hungrily to churn out several small works of art in the limited time, because the materials in front of them will soon be gone. Likewise, some struggle thoughtfully to choose just the right idea, because the materials in front of them will soon be gone.

Recently, at the suggestion of a shelter volunteer, I led the women in making a group painting to brighten the wall of a common room. We used real paints on real canvas to make something beautiful and enduring! It was very exciting for these new artists. And working together made for a different kind of healing experience.

Tree of Hope, a collaborative painting by the women at Newhouse, a Kansas City domestic violence shelter.

Collaborating made stARTing easier for most. It made some people want to show off, to try make their part of the painting the best. It made others want to start their own painting. It turned others into encouragers, cheerleading the timid and super talented. Clearly, it had been too long since these women had shown off or encouraged or started their own work of art. The hour was truly magical.

Helping others to the healing powers of stARTistry is as good for the teacher as it is for the student, and I highly recommend it. If you have the chance to help someone stART something, skip the formal curriculums and try these three simple steps:

1.Invite.

2.Demonstrate.

3.Encourage.

Simply ask someone to join you, show them how, and keep the positive feedback flowing. And never underestimate the healing powers of stARTing!

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