YWCA Greater Lafayette’s Outreach Coordinator and Violence Prevention Educator, Kelly Hampton, is back with a post about how art and creative expression are a healing force for survivors of domestic violence and trauma.
Healing Art & Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, by nature, is a destructive force and one that rips power and control away from survivors. YWCA Greater Lafayette is on a mission to help place power and control back in the hands of survivors and provide them with the resources and tools to successfully work through and overcome trauma. One of the tools for healing that we enjoy sharing with the survivors we serve is art. Expressions, YWCA’s healing art support group, provides survivors of trauma with a safe space to observe, create, process, and grow.
For me, artistic expression has always been an outlet for my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I have used my creativity throughout my life to deal with trauma and loss and to express joy and happiness. When I started at YWCA Greater Lafayette’s Domestic Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (DVIPP), I was elated to learn that there was a healing art program operating. Through the program and my interactions with it’s creator, I was able to better understand why creating art always felt therapeutic to me.
Studies have long shown the benefits of artistic expression and we know that those benefits happen regardless of artistic ability. There is something intrinsically healing about picking up an art supply and using the movements of your body to intentionally create something new. Artistic expression can reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in participants of healing art workshops, alleviate the symptoms of mental health problems including depression and anxiety, and promote mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Learn more about the healing power of art here.
Expressions: A Brief History
Launched in March of 2018 by our wonderful and talented case advocate Rachel Reynolds, Expressions has continued to grow and evolve over the last few years. In October 2018, YWCA Greater Lafayette partnered with A Window Between Worlds, an LA-based agency that works with human service providers to support facilitation of trauma-informed healing art workshops. This partnership empowered us to train three additional facilitators, and in the fall I will be the second person to represent YWCA Greater Lafayette at the first ever VIRTUAL A Window Between Worlds Facilitator Training. Initially, Rachel facilitated Expressions from the basement at YWCA’a emergency shelter, but recognized the need for a more private and inviting environment. As such, she moved the group to our Advocacy Center and, despite fears that people would stop showing up, the number of attendees increased.
With interest in our program growing, the DVIPP team decided to expand the program again. In March 2019 we opened the workshops up to the greater community, more than doubling our reach. February 2020 saw our first Survivor’s Gallery, a collection of over 60 pieces of original artwork created by survivors of trauma during Expressions healing art workshops. A second gallery show will be held April 2021 at the Wells Center. As of this writing, 212 adults and 170 children have participated in 105 workshops. Most recently, Rachel began facilitating “Virtual Expressions” during the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully ordered and distributed art supplies to those who needed them in order to participate.
I am the facilitator of Outreach Expressions and have taken our healing art workshops out in the community and facilitated groups at community events, in area schools, and for various organizations. Additionally, YWCA Greater Lafayette’s Hispanic Advocate, Nohemi Lugo, offers Expressions as part of the support group Reflexiones, which she facilitates for Spanish-speaking clients. YWCA Greater Lafayette also offers Children’s Expressions, which runs congruent to our Friday night Adults’ Expressions group. Children’s Expressions is temporarily on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will resume once in-person meetings are reinstated.
I had the opportunity to ask Rachel Reynolds about her experience creating and facilitating such a successful program and when asked what her favorite part is, she responded, “My job as a facilitator is to carve out Windows of Time for people to create. I love holding space for that amazing making and changing to happen.”
Rachel’s passion for creative expression and her desire to support the clients she serves has made her a captivating facilitator of Expressions. She reminds her co-workers, Expressions participants, and everyone she meets that you don’t have to be a skilled artist to create meaningful artwork or to enjoy creating. Each Friday Rachel creates a safe space for survivors to come together, where they are invited to create or participate in whatever way feels most comfortable for them. Lavender oil, warm tea, and calming music set the mood for survivors to feel safe and relaxed, to reflect on their own experiences and to process the trauma they’ve lived through.
Rachel reminds all attendees that each workshop belongs to them, that it is their window of time and they may use it however they life. Lucy Dillman, an advocate at YWCA and Expressions participant shared that she enjoys the workshops because she is free to express herself however she wants to, “I love healing art because it creates a space without expectations. The way Rachel facilitates the expressions healing art groups allows me to explore the subconscious and the deep down things I’m going through because when I create through the led workshops I have the space to explore deeper meaning to my art. Healing art also allows me space to connect with my spiritual side, which is another place I find healing; I let the Lord guide my hands as I create and it feels as though I can see through another lense.”
Healing Art & COVID-19
Rachel and I were in our shared office when we got word that we would immediately be transitioning to work-from-home status. As I started packing up my computer, important files, and outreach supplies, Rachel started planning how she could continue to offer healing art to clients, many of whom come back week after week to see what workshop Rachel has prepared for them. It took a lot of planning, trial and error, technology training, and a that unwavering dedication to the cause from Rachel… but Expressions is still available amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We are holding virtual space for survivors to create!
Join Rachel for virtual Expressions every Friday at 6:00pm! Interested parties should click here to register to receive information about upcoming workshops. Supplies can be delivered directly to your home to remove any barriers to participation! Rachel also recommends the Window of Time Workshop Series developed by our partner agency, A Window Between Worlds. This series of self-led workshops was designed to help people heal in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the workshops are printable and can be done with paper and pencil.
So, I challenge every member of our YWCA Greater Lafayette family to start creating. If you find that the artwork you’ve created is something you would like to share, I invite you to post it to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #YWCAGreaterLafayetteHealingArt and check out Virtual Expressions, every Friday at 6:00PM.