Love > Disrespect

Staff and Ed Techs recently shared their gratitude for ArtVan’s presence in the schools. Art Therapy has made shifts in student’s behaviors:

  • increasing trust levels
  • encouraging artistic abilities
  • promoting interpersonal skills
  • supporting healthy risk-taking


A number of youths in a particular neighborhood often create images of violence – imitations of virtual characters. In an effort channel their creativity and motivate them to go deeper into their authenticity, we designed a three-week “Heart” project using wooden bases and clay. Each youth received their own journal and was invited to discuss rude behavior, rules of respect, and how to use art as a creative outlet for feelings – a definition of “Art Therapy”. We also introduced four famous female artists whose art expressed suffering and made handouts for this discussion. 

"My Heart Over My Lifespan"

Using clay over a nail hammered into a wood block, youth represented their heart in three parts:

  • What your heart looked like when you were born.
  • How your heart may look between when you were born and today.
  • How your heart looks today.

Youth hammered a nail into the center of a wood block that would be the base to sculpt the clay. Each Youth made three bases, one for each stage of their heart representation. They spent three weeks working on these clay heart-interpreted sculptures. On the last project day, youth embellished these hearts using glue guns, sea glass, bobbles, colorful wire, and paints.

This project was designed to encourage youth to think beyond their virtual reality worlds that so many of them have latched onto in the past couple years as a way to identify who they are and to release feelings of anger and fear.

Although there was some resistance, all the youth took the risk to engage in a more authentic relationship with their art and each other. ArtVan staff’s encouragement and guidance led to deepen their artistic experience and to express underlying emotions, which have become so layered in anger and superficial content that is particularly dark and violent.

Youth ended this project with a sense of completion and accomplishment, pride, along with a deeper sense of trust of staff and an uncovering of self.

Closure, Peace & Gratitude

Using a wooden cigar box, glue, tissue paper, and nature materials, Rumford Middle School Youth Artists through the support of Friends of River Valley, created their own personal altars. For our check-in they each chose an oracle card to inspire their art, and amazing imaginative creations emerged! It was our final session with this group, and the youth felt a sense of closure, peace, and gratitude for ArtVan’s program and the friendships they built with one another along the way.