Last week we explored “There is Healing in Art”, art fair in Chicago sponsored by the Department of Human Services; Division of Mental Health. I saw a ton of amazing artwork, but I was completely captivated (okay, borderline obsessed) with “The Feather Project”, so I decided to get in touch with the artists. Little did I know, the art was created by Art Impact Project’s adolescent, young adult and Girls Group clients.
It is very rare to see young teens so in tune and able to express their emotions so eloquently, so I got in contact with Vickie Marasco, Found of Art Impact Project to learn more about her story and the organization.
Established in 2014, the mission of Art Impact Project (AIP) is to enhance emotional wellness and the recovery process through creative expression. AIP stemmed from Vickie’s personal experience with her son and other teens in substance abuse recovery.
While supporting her son, Vickie noticed many of the kids going through group therapy felt ashamed or had trouble expressing their emotions. This resulted in difficulties discussing their personal stories during recovery. Vickie knew it was important for teens to have an outlet to express themselves. As a seasoned artist, she believes that art is a powerful tool to express creativity. She knew she could use something she loved to help others.
In 2013, Vickie ran a six month pilot program with an existing Intensive Outpatient Program. The program allowed for a safe place where adolescents could be open, but not feel judged. Each project the kids created took a deeper dive into their emotions. Directed by volunteer Art Advocates, the kids started with designated art project incorporating various artistic mediums and tools. Art Advocates sat side by side to work with the teens while building trust. At the end of each session, they came together to verbally express the emotions that the art uncovered. The kids LOVED it!
Today, AIP primarily works with adolescents by partnering with mental and behavioral health facilities, schools and organizations such as NICASA and Edge Wellness and Learning. The organization has expanded to include programming focused on emotional wellness. The new initiative began working with North Chicago Community Partners at Neal Math and Science Academy where 50 kids participated in weekly art sessions that promote social and emotional wellness.
What I love most about Art Impact Project is that it takes a difficult personal experience and transforms it into something that will provide healing to others. Vickie stated,
“I am not a counselor. I am an artist and a parent of a child who struggled with drug abuse.”
which speaks volumes, because sometimes we need someone who has firsthand experience to assist us in our mental health journey. She continues to say...
“We are very excited about what we are doing and especially proud of the connections to the kids that we serve. They are really amazing kids and I send out my prayers to them and their families.”
So, let’s recap! Besides learning about an amazing organization doing great things for the youth of Chicagoland what are the two biggest things we can take away from The Art Impact Project?
- Though a great solution, traditional therapy is no longer your only option. You are no longer limited to a square room with a stranger asking you “So, how does that make you feel?” If what you are doing is not giving you the relief you need, let’s explore some new options.
- Your story can and will inspires others. Vickie took a challenging time in her life and made it into an organization that will impact generations. Be like Vickie, be that inspiration for others. Click here to share your story with Blaque & Blue.
If you are as intrigued as I am and would like more information on volunteering, donating, or just want to contact Vickie, please click here.