For over 40,000 years ago, humans have used art and creative expression to document their lives and make sense of the world around them. Painting, music, and storytelling are an innate part of humanity. Early cave dwellings from Europe to Indonesia are covered in murals of animals and hand-stencils creating a beautiful space that feels like a home and a sanctuary.
At ArtWell, we begin every new relationship with our students by exploring what sanctuary means to them. We help them to identify spaces where they feel safe and work with them to access peaceful places within themselves and in the outside world.
One of the largest barriers in our work is the persistent trauma that is experienced by youth in our city. According to the 2013 National Survey of Children’s Health, almost half of U.S. youth ages 12-17 have experienced at least two types of “childhood adversity” that could affect their physical and mental health as adults. The percentage is undoubtedly higher in impoverished big cities (thenotebook) We know that safe spaces are vital for growth and learning and hope for the day when all schools are sanctuaries. ArtWell continues to explore what the role of youth-serving community partners, artists, educators, and leaders is in creating safe spaces for our students to thrive. All of our youth are at risk – at risk for greatness. It is our mission to support our young people so they can discover their own greatness.
ArtWell is excited to move forward in this area and strengthen our programming and pedagogy through formalizing partnerships with like-minded leaders and organizations such as Dr. Sandra Bloom and the Sanctuary Institute, The Health Federation, Turning Points for Children, Northeast Treatment Center, CHOP’s Violence Prevention Initiative, and leaders within the Philadelphia School District who recognize the importance and urgency to integrate trauma-informed practice into our education system through the arts.
The integration of trauma-informed practice not only serves the students, but also the providers. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future estimates one-third of all new teachers leave after 3 years, and 46% leave within 5 years; and the situation is bleakest within urban school districts. In response, ArtWell’s Professional Development has expanded in recent years to provide replenishing and reflective experiences for educators and youth-serving providers who are working to create sanctuaries in their own classrooms. We know ArtWell Professional Development fills a need that is otherwise unmet for our youth-serving adults. As one ArtWell PD participant stated, “There are very few innovative trainings out there that combine different disciplines. When I heard about ArtWell’s PD, I was excited because ArtWell’s approach is refreshing; it gives educators the tools to create something with their students, develop skills, and create a community.”
On Tuesday, May 5th, ArtWell is pleased to present Caregivers, a film created by Vic Compher, that spotlights personal experiences of secondary trauma and compassion fatigue and introduces models for caring for our caregivers. Please join us for the film screening and a conversation around this topic facilitated by experts in the field. RSVP and additional information can be found on Eventbright.
Images: Student Threshold Projects: students create flags (top) and birds that display their wishes and needs for a safe space. Students use their thresholds to transform their classrooms into a sanctuaries for ArtWell classes.