One great part about creating art is that there are no barriers. Oftentimes we feel like we have obstacles in our lives — not enough money, talent, connections. We may benefit from overcoming these hurdles to achieve the trappings of success, but to create art and be happy, we don’t need to. We really need very little.
This was evident at my recent collage workshop at the Highland Dwellings Public Housing community in Southeast D.C. The workshop was facilitated by A Wider Circle, a nonprofit aimed at fighting poverty through providing basic household needs and assistance transitioning back into the workforce.
Highland Dwellings can seem like a place without hope, but A Wider Circle tries to reverse that by changing the lives of those who live there. I was lucky enough to take part in this endeavor by running an art workshop at A Wider Circle’s satellite office there last Saturday. Collage in particular is an eclectic artform, one in which you can take almost anything and assemble it in a way that makes a statement about you — where you come from, what you believe in or what is beautiful and valuable to you.
These are the concepts I put out there to the workshop attendees, and I was overjoyed to see the results.
The children who participated had so much energy, were so creative, so enthusiastic and so receptive. They listened to what I had to teach them, but they also listened to their inner voices — the ones that tell them how to bring to life the images they see in their minds.
Adults attended as well, and I was thrilled to see what they were able to get out of the workshop. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and there are precious few in public housing communities as well. These ladies are buoyed by their faith in God and the camaraderie they get from their church. Despite the fact they have very little to call their own, these women used the art supplies to make gifts for family members and fellow congregants.
Art isn’t just beautiful or creative, it’s an escape — a therapy even. If a pencil, glue stick or paintbrush in the hand of a child helps them to cope with difficulties, even for only an hour, it’s worth it. And art isn’t merely a diversion — it’s lasting. Anyone who creates art at any age can hang onto it and look back at it later and think, “That’s what I was feeling back on that day.”
I’m grateful to A Wider Circle for providing me this opportunity, not only to teach, but to learn. If you’d like to help A Wider Circle reach even more people in need, please consider donating your unwanted household items, clothing, toys, art supplies — or your time to this important organization.