Project Create

Facilitation | Photo | Research

Project Create stumbled into my life, one late night while I was soul-searching on the Internet. A few years after college, I began to feel the itch to go back to  school. I loved art and was playing with the idea of getting a Master's in Art Therapy. On that auspicious night, I Googled "art therapy dc” and the link to Project Create popped up in my results.

After a meeting with the executive director, I began volunteering with the organization as a program evaluator on their Evaluation Task Force. I then became a teaching assistant and eventually led my own photography and mixed-media classes for youth and families who lived in Washington DC's poorest neighborhoods. I often worked with students who experienced violence and trauma, and some were living in transitional housing or were homeless.

In my classes, I developed my own curricula and with time, I learned that what the students needed most were lessons that not only worked on their artistry but also on their social-emotional skills and their mindsets. I began to incorporate more intentional prompts that asked students to reflect on their identity, strengths, passions, and emotions and to express them through their artwork.

I also revised Project Create’s student surveys and administered them in my own classes. One of the open-ended questions asked what students liked about my classes and one student wrote, “We can express our inner soul through art.” Another commented, “Feeling free.” When asked about what they learned, one student said, “That art is me.” One student shared, “Trust the process, don't give up, relax, less is more!” 

Through this work, I realized the importance of access to the arts for youth, especially those experiencing poverty and violence in their homes and communities. Because of my time at Project Create, I discovered one of my life goals – to create positive change through educational programs that promote self-love, mindfulness, and self-awareness using the arts. 

I didn't end up pursuing Art Therapy as my Master's degree, but I knew that I wanted to connect art education and social-emotional learning somehow in my studies. I spent the next three years in my Educational Psychology program learning about learning and conducting research on the impact of arts-based and mindfulness interventions for youth. You can read my capstone on that topic here.

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