Art, Empathy, and Bullying

Today I read an article posted by the Huffington Post about bullying, titled: “Is Empathy the Antidote to Bullying” written by Tony Nagi. It got me thinking about ways in which art can be used to teach kids about empathy. Specifically what are the things we do at ArtVan to support kids in this area.

By helping kids access and name their own emotions, we can help them better identify the emotions of others. This creates an important connection needed to develop empathy, to put themselves in the shoes of another. Sometimes when a person (any age) is feeling angry, s(he) might really be feeling sad and afraid. Without this understanding, an internal disconnect takes place. This disconnection can show itself outwardly as well. Bullying can be “easier” if one doesn’t feel connected to others. It doesn’t help that many teens consider online platforms to be their primary form of connectedness. So, we have some big ideas to consider. How can we use art to teach kids to identify and name their emotions, to stay connected, and finally to empathize with others?

To address lots of issues relating to awareness of self and others, we’ve been working on the theme of emotion at our after school program at a local middle school. Through a variety of projects, we give kids multiple ways of expressing themselves. Eventually identifying their emotions whether it be visually or verbally, the kids use art as a safe way to explore  what can be a confusing, exciting, and sometimes scary topic. Our hope is that by providing a safe environment and the tools necessary, that kids can be courageous in their exploration, and take ownership of their emotions.

Another important part of our programs is that they always take place in person, face to face. This makes a big difference in all that we do. At ArtVan kids are seen, heard, and witnessed. We require participation, allow for observation, and give kids an arena in which to share their experiences and be supported. Empathy is built on all of these foundations and art makes it possible.

Till next time……let’s all keep the arts rollin.