Often at times, people cannot move forward and are not open to learning because they are holding on to traumas and past experiences that have had an important impact on their lives.
I was volunteering for a long time as an art therapist in various schools, and trauma centers in Baltimore. As an artist, I use art as a form of self-expression- it is easier to make a statement through art (instead of saying it out loud) and provoke people through a piece that you create. I felt I could pass that method on to try and help trauma survivors.
I led a group of trauma survivors and incarcerated women in a weekly art session. I felt it was important to give them the freedom to explore any activity they were willing to try.
- At the start of each session, I would present an art technique/concept/activity. I gave some background information about artists that had done similar things, showed some images and spoke about the various approaches and examples.
- I would then present the materials I have brought along with me and gave them time to do their own thing. Because these were adults, I didn’t want them to feel that I was really holding their hand through it, and I always had a secondary option for those who didn’t want to do what I had planed.
- After they had the time to create, we would all sit and write about it (myself included)- Reflection time was always very powerful and became a very personal time to appreciate the hour we had passed together.
- Lastly, before leaving, we would open the floor to discussion. The conversations and things people would reveal were absolutely incredible. They felt so freed and relieved, they were open to sharing their experiences.
I do realize that this technique doesn’t always work, however, keeping people in the present time enjoying what they were doing at the time was amazing. They were not worried about the past and what had happened to them, and the future wasn’t on their minds either- it was all about learning something new and expressing themselves through art education.
Refugees are trauma survivors forced to re-adapt to a new environment and a new way of life. Using art as a form of education can really take you very far in slowly expressing yourself and gaining the strength to move forward.