LIT: A Joyful celebration of Healing Through Art

Written by Liz Reed Hawke, originally posted on June 27th, 2018 on Solid Ground

On the first anniversary of a tragic event that rocked the Sand Point Housing (SPH) campus and our entire community, a bright light shone to honor the life of mother and SPH resident Charleena Lyles. Youth residents proudly shared artwork through a resident-led art project that culminated in a gallery show titled “LIT” on Monday, June 18 at Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange (SPACE) in Magnuson Park.

Shortly after Charleena Lyles’ death in 2017,  Art with Heart reached out to the SPH community to offer resources. At that time, the community wasn’t ready to bring in outside organizations and needed space to process and heal on their own. But this year, resident Lhorna Murray and her friend Liza Rankin – both artists and SPACE Gallery Board members – felt they were ready.

“I like art because it helps you calm down, and it helps you think about things, and it helps your feelings.” – Kamarie, youth artist

Lhorna wrote a proposal to Solid Ground leadership outlining her vision for a collaboration between Solid Ground, SPACE, Art with Heart, and three separate PTAs. She emphasizes the powerful role SPH residents can play in creating community events like this one, stating that residents appreciate Solid Ground empowering and supporting them to create ideas for their community and turn them into reality. This is exactly what happened with LIT, and it was a truly magical event.

The exhibition was the culmination of four sessions with Art with Heart, a local nonprofit that creates therapeutic workbooks for kids and corresponding curricula for adults. Art with Heart’s Creative Learning Specialist, Sera Rogers, says the participants wanted to “create a gallery event where the community could share their personal stories of resilience through art. They wanted to create room for kids to process and share any feelings that may have come up from that experience or other traumas.”

Sera describes the Art with Heart process: “Every young person is different; some kids connect with specific art media right away, while others take time to discover what feels good to them. Together, we create group guidelines to set the scene for the type of environment kids want to foster among themselves in terms of setting up safe space throughout the program. When kids create and agree on their own rules – like ‘We can make whatever we want!’ and ‘Everyone makes good art!’ – it gives participants a sense of pride and ownership in the work they make, and continues to create a safe place to engage in the creative expression process.”

The kids have ownership over their work and whatever the art looks like, and decided themselves whether or not to share their art in the LIT exhibition. A few of the young artists sold some pieces at the exhibition, and they got to set the prices. Some were brave enough to speak to the guests during the event, and Lhorna introduced them. One boy named Deng says, “Art is a tool for when you want to have fun, and it’s fun to do.”

Lhorna introduced another artist, Kamarie, with the following: “He loves art. I mean I don’t even think he cared about the class, he just wanted to go off and do the art; we were a distraction.” Kamarie explains, “I like art because it helps you calm down, and it helps you think about things, and it helps your feelings.”

Tyrece, Kamarie’s older brother, says, “So I think why you should do artwork [is] because if you’re really mad, there’s something you could do – paint. And also, it sort of calms you down, and it’s really good for your energy.”

Solid Ground Board member Sunil Sanghani also spoke to Kamarie about his work, describing the artist as “pretty insightful.” Kamarie told Sunil, “When I’m happy, I use light colors, and when I’m mad, I use dark colors.” Sunil asked Kamarie to describe one thing he hopes to express through his art. “Feelings – I would like to change the way people see things.”

Sunil says that LIT was filled with “great energy. It was a very affirming event that gave the kids a platform to share their joys and aspirations – a celebration where they could express themselves in a meaningful way.” To Sunil, the evening “emphasized a need for compassion, community and a more equitable future for the younger generation – for kids who have hope, aspirations and are looking for support.”

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