Locally and globally, The HALO Foundation uses art therapy to help children express themselves. To some, art therapy may just seem like a fun way for children and teenagers to express their creative side. In reality, art therapy is much more. It uses artistic creation as a means of expression to communicate feelings and emotions. Art therapy is especially useful for expressing topics that children are unable or unwilling to discuss orally.
Not only does art therapy create new channels of communication, it sets at-risk youth up for success. According to Americans for the Arts, art can help develop critical thinking skills, while also increasing one’s creativity. Plus art has been shown to “level the ‘learning field’ across socioeconomic boundaries.” This means that no matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, art therapy can give you a chance to shine like no other method. Because art therapy helps create better critical thinkers, it also helps at-risk youth become contributing members of their communities. Where other strategies to keep America’s teens in school fail, art significantly helps increase high school graduation rates.
Facts like these are why HALO youth are constantly using art to illustrate their hopes, goals and dreams. At the HALO Learning Center, art projects are focused around a different character trait each month and are meant to enable workshop participants to formulate goals or improve themselves in some way. HALO Center staff and volunteers create a safe, welcoming environment for at-risk youth to express themselves.
Aubony Chalfant, the HALO Center Facilitator, has many stories about how youth have improved their self-esteem or lives through HALO workshops. Some youth have gone on to find jobs after participating in a workshop while others have worked on improving specific character traits.
Aubony described one workshop that focused on perseverance. The project was to create a “perseverance quilt” depicting a struggle the youth was going through and what it would look like to overcome that struggle. A 17-year-old boy in the workshop drew a picture of his struggle, “work on anger.” Then he drew how it would look to overcome the struggle, writing, “get a job” and drawing a picture of himself taking his girlfriend on a date.
That is just one example of how HALO uses art therapy to help children express emotions they might not speak about otherwise. HALO staff and volunteers witness youth accomplish goals and express dreams through art therapy every day.