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emPOWERment project Artist-in-Residence

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be the Artist-in-Residence at POWER, the Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery.  It was a project that I had been thinking about since 2012 after a meeting about the POWER Collection, a collection of artworks inspired by POWER, created by local artists, and sold to raise funds for both the artists and POWER.

The long-term vision of the POWER Collection was to somehow involve the women in the house in the entrepreneurship process. Since I have 15 years of teaching artistry experience, it seemed like a project I could handle and would love to participate in. After securing funding through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and Shadyside Presbyterian Church, the emPOWERment project arts program began in June 2016.

The goals of the program are to use art to: heal; to gain skills and confidence; and to give back to our community. In order to do this, we started with easy, expressive art techniques: lines, patterns and colors. The first day I heard someone say, ” But I can’t draw!”. The same woman at the end of the first class was overheard saying this: ” I didn’t know lines could do so many things!” It was one of my finest moments as a Teaching Artist.

We moved  from creative doodling through several weeks of adding other skills and materials such as color theory, painting, oil pastel and watercolor resist, Zentangle, Japanese shibori fabric dyeing and more. Each woman created a portfolio, then filled it with art and sketches.

After 3 months, we focused our creations and started market research on greeting cards. 11 final card designs were printed by Print Management, a local printing company. We divided the cards into 2 variety card packs. Women from the program wrote an insert that is given out with every purchase that explains that the intention of the cards are to”…help all those, and their families, who struggle in their recovery.”

One additional card design was printed as a Recovery Encouragement card. Every woman who leaves the House writes a note of encouragement to the woman who will take her place on her road to recovery. POWER Staff let me know it is something that all of the women look forward to doing as a way to give back and support the next generation of women who choose to face their addiction.

the program wrote an insert that is given out with every purchase that explains that the intention of the cards are to”…help all those, and their families, who struggle in their recovery.”

Some of the women opted to attend a local indie market to help sell the cards, and to get more exposure to what an indie sales market is like. The card packs were sold at the Neighborhood Flea Market, and are now available by contacting the POWER administrative offices (contact info here).

One participant wrote this about the program, “The colors and textures make me look at the world differently, not just black and white into shades of grey (as in my addiction). Now I see hope and light.”

Check out the photo gallery below for more information on this project. We will be continuing into a new round of the project in May 2017 where I will work with both alumni from the previous program, and current women in the House. We have applied for funding for a Long-Term Residency Project which would fund a year-round arts program for women in the POWER House. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has recommended full funding contingent on funding form the National Endowments for the Arts, and the Pennsylvania State budget. Neither public source of funding is guaranteed as of yet (*see below). However, we have secured the private funding match (that is required for any publicly funded arts program funded through the NEA and/or Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Shadyside Presbyterian Church has generously confirmed they will fund the year-round program- Thank you!

*Please make sure to contact your state and federal legislators to urge them to keep arts funding in the budget! Otherwise, programs such as these that help the arts thrive, and help human service agencies operate on much needed levels, will not be able to continue. A good place to start is the Americans for the Arts website.*

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