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Invited by Virginia Commission for the Arts Executive Director Janet Starke, and Cathy Wellborn, Program Coordinator, Mark Hierholzer and Cindy Paullin were honored to participate as panelists for the 2019 Art Works Virginia Conference. Conference goers had opportunities to learn about the impact of all of the arts in and around Virginia, with a special focus on the ongoing importance and challenge to create diversity and equity in organizational structure, arts programming, and more. Art for the Journey staff and volunteers all enjoyed the experience, and offered perspectives from the wonderful experience.

“I was encouraged to be among so many individuals and organizations who are doing the same work we are in the various sectors across the state and the country. During a time when society is so polarized and anxious, it was a breath of fresh air to unite with others around a shared vision of human dignity and glean practical ideas as well. I especially enjoyed hearing what Keely Healing Arts is doing at the Carilion Clinic. There’s no room for competition or comparison when the need is so great and the means are so abundant! At the end of the day, I left challenged to make small changes toward greater justice in my own sphere of leadership, even if they are baby steps.”

~Stephanie Shanks, Program Leader and AFJ Administrator

I feel like we stepped to a new level of understanding and support for what we do.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to share our story with an audience of artists and art enthusiasts from around Virginia. We shared the stage with some very impressive and impactful programs aimed at bringing art-making and healing together. I was deeply gratified by the warm welcome Art for the Journey was given and how much interest in our mission and programs we saw by the end of the session. I feel like we stepped to a new level of understanding and support for what we do”.

~Mark Hierholzer, CEO

“There were many sessions and speakers who provided interesting perspectives on the arts and diversity. In reflecting on what was most powerful to me, my thoughts return to the efforts of people around Virginia with whom I had conversations throughout the day. I sat next to people who are leading or participating in efforts to bringing art to urban, rural, young and older, marginalized and isolated as well as socioeconomically populations, despite financial challenges unique to each organization and community. Commonalities seem to be the efforts to make available opportunities for children and adults would not otherwise participate in all forms of art- visual, music, dance, and theater. People are working hard to do this, and I loved hearing their stories!
I spoke with one young woman who recently relocated to Richmond to work at Vis Arts who said the thing that drew her to Vis Arts was how impressed she was by the Make Space Program which pairs mentors in an outreach program with 6th grade girls; she was impressed by the outreach that is a part of Vis Arts.

It was a “breath of fresh air” to hear about earnest efforts by so many participants to do this...not because it is the PC thing to be doing, but because these folks genuinely care. This is so encouraging especially at a time when we hear so much about divisions and animosity in our country.

I left feeling that Art for the Journey shares so much of the goodwill and energy that is being put forth to reach out and bring the joy of art to those who might miss out on it -and does this so well. Efforts flow from the experiences of the people who are doing this work in AFJ programs. As Cindy shared so genuinely, her Mother’s journey has blossomed forth because of her difficult experiences and she now uses that energy in the wonderful efforts with OMA. That genuine care is so palpable in AFJ’s programs. Being at the conference reinforced my gratitude for being a part of Art for the Journey and renewed my energy to take on the challenges!”

~Diane Willson, Volunteer leader Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School

It was an honor to participate on a panel that highlighted programs around Virginia that innovatively approach healing through the arts. All of the presenters provided great and hopeful ideas from efforts being made around the state. It is terrific that the Virginia Commission for the Arts has such strong understanding of what art can do around healing and non-pharmacologic therapy, and is supportive of this bridge of two distinctly different worlds of science/Medicine and art. The data is beginning to show results and the collaboration of universities, medical faculty, and art organizations and we are beginning to create positive impact in the lives of many. This is only the beginning! We are so grateful to Dr. Elizabeth Lokon, Gerontologist, and Founder of the Scripps Gerontology Center Opening Minds Through Art program for people with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Art for the Journey is honored to help the OMA program expand to help many others, and were so very grateful to the VCA for the opportunity to share our work at the 2019 conference!

~Cindy Paullin, Deputy CEO