Written by YIA Mentor Artist, Marty Meade
VSA Braun High School
Braun High School changed the Clinical component this year, and the approach to working with these “At Risk” Students is different.
These are Junior and Senior High School students who suffer from emotional problems. Many have disruptive control issues, others suffer deep depression. My challenge, is how to connect with them as a group. Those students with control issues need to be ‘reeled’ in, so that they do not sabotage those who suffer depression.
I prepared a variety of art projects that would not only help them to express what they cannot talk about, but those that would provide them to new skills:
Upside Drawing Exercise using Watercolors: learning to see in a new way, and how to control a medium that is difficult. These pieces were matted in pre-cut mats.
Canvas/Acrylic paintings: using a medium that can be controlled. Some students used drafting tape to create straight lines and patterns.
Haunted House: a photograph of a classic haunted house evokes hidden feelings. In this exercise, a child revealed that he was carrying a secret that he was NEVER going to reveal, and that he hadn’t ‘gotten sick’ yet. Another student was able to use rainbow colors behind the house to communicate about being bisexual… In each incident, I shared this information with the Clinical staff
Sugar Skulls: We talk about Day of the Dead being a universal celebration at this time of year… Remembering loved ones, and also to be thankful for the harvests that we receive at this time. We used Royal Icing and Candied sugar for this project. This project always brings up discussions about families, their beliefs, and members that have died.
Glass Fusing/Jewelry and Small Plates: I decided to do this project for two days, as not all of the students were sure of the results. There was a particularly powerful breakthrough with a junior high school student named “Jerry”. He has been off the wall each week, unable to sit in my group with out disrupting. I met with the Director and Jerry before we began and told him that we were using material that would be potentially dangerous (cut glass), and asked if he thought he could control himself enough to participate. He shrugged his shoulder and the Director indicated that that meant “Yes.” When Jerry came in he joked a few minutes, but then asked me to show him how to cut glass. He watched closely, following the precise direction that he needed without cutting himself. A few minutes later, he was completely engaged, focused and creating two beautiful pieces. I called the Director to observe what was going on, as it had not happened all year, and suggested that he be given more hands-on experiences.
Moments like Jerry’s breakthrough, or moments when a student confides in me and accepts the fact that I have to report it because “they mean something to me,” is why I continue this work.
Thank you again for supporting me to do this valuable work.