After years of creating art and experiencing the calming effect of its process, a small group of artists, including a retired mental health professional familiar with art therapy, began to discuss and research the phenomenon of spaciousness, perspective and peace that art brought them.
“Sarah riding on Howard Street” 12 X 16 Oil by Mark Hierholzer
After being involved in adult art instruction over several years they noticed how often those who sought classes did so not just to learn to paint, but as a way of stepping back from a busy life or experiencing peace and perspective during a difficult time (death of a loved one, divorce, mid-life crisis), or marking a key transition (retirement, recovery from an illness, etc.). Whatever the magic was, art seemed to provide a universal balm for the human spirit. Over and over again, they heard the stories of art students attesting to the positive effect classes were having in their lives.
It also became apparent that those who wanted or needed the art experience the most often could not afford it or lived in circumstances that prevented them from attending classes. One afternoon during a painting session a discussion ensued about developing programs for such people and finding ways to pay for them.
Through contact with a local church the group received encouragement to consider art classes at a regional women’s prison. With the support of friends and a generous offer from the church to provide a grant to pay for art supplies, the group approached the Virginia Department of Corrections, went through volunteer training, and were invited to conduct an art class in a regional prison outside of Richmond. The classes began in June 2014 and now take place regularly twice a month.
As Art for The Journey evolves it will also seek to serve people in assisted living and nursing homes with dementia-related illnesses who are not currently receiving art services. A resource for considering the theory that art therapy, or art practice, can help improve memory, is “I Remember Better When I Paint”, a video produced by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner. Discussions are also underway to organize overnight weekend art retreats for adults.
From here it was an easy step to the idea of creating a nonprofit that would make such programs sustainable and provide a way to expand this combination of art instruction and its invitation to healing and peace to other groups.
On June 19, 2014, Art for The Journey was founded, receiving its 501(c)(3) status in October 2014.