Reaching Hearts through Arts

by Wayne Munchel, LCSW   0 Comments

ARE WE DONE YET? The angry young man asked as he glared at me through the scrunched-up port-hole of his hoodie. Ear-buds seemed to be permanently implanted accessories. I recall at least three assessment meetings that basically followed this script at my TAY program in Long Beach. Until one day I thought to ask him what music he was listening to and could I hear it? That day I was introduced to the rapper, Eminem, and got an earful of his traumatic stories and rage at his mother. We were able to start a conversation about his own overwhelming experiences with his mother and foster care. (Later, I shared one of my own favorite angry songs by The Who and he said it wasn’t bad for a “buncha ol’ dudes.”)

“Reaching hearts through arts” describes an engagement strategy, a way to teach, treat and inspire youth and ourselves. Whether using painting, drama, writing, making movies or music – TAY providers often find these creative approaches to be effective tools in their work with youth, especially those who are less talkative and may struggle to express themselves verbally. Throughout history, people and cultures have found ways to make meaning and communicate their stories through the arts. Expressive art has often provided an outlet for marginalized and minority communities and promoted cultural identity and awareness.

At the upcoming Reaching Hearts thru Arts training on March 20 at the Hot Spot in Carson, several TAY staff and peer mentors will be sharing some of what they’ve learned about the value of art-based interventions. They will facilitate several activities, illustrate how they can be adapted to meet different needs and therapeutic goals and most importantly – have some fun. Sophocles once proclaimed, “Whoever neglects the arts when he is young has lost the past and is dead to the future.” Those old Greek philosophers do tend to go over the top, but here is a down to earth quote from Scott Adams that I think hits the mark, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

What expressive arts approaches do you use with youth?

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