For the past six months, our residents have worked with George Washington University’s Master’s level art therapy student, Aubrey Rainbow, to learn the importance of self-expression through art. This past Tuesday, April 2, 2019 their pieces were showcased in the collection, “Portraits of Progress” at Principle Gallery, located in Old Town, Alexandria.
“Portraits of Progress” featured both individual and group work by Friends of Guest House residents and included various forms of art. From original paintings, to prints, to 3D art, and quilting, the pieces they created were filled with such raw emotion and vulnerability, you couldn’t help but walk away feeling inspired and proud.
For Stephanie (pictured above), using art as a form of self-expression was nothing new. While incarcerated, she created and sold many of her creations. In her piece titled, Unbenannte, she explained, “I like to leave blank canvases propped up around my room, because often when I’m not even trying, an image will come to me. The images are often whatever’s going on with my thoughts and emotions at the time. When it’s natural and isn’t forced, it becomes more than just paint.”
For other residents, like Kierra (pictured below), this was their first time exploring and refining their artistic abilities, showing them a talent and connection they never knew existed. Her piece, K. Underdue the Realist at Summer Jam, represents her dream of becoming a musician. According to Kierra, “Art therapy has made me fall in love with myself. Time with myself has shown me how God has blessed me with plenty of talent. I thank God for my art therapist and teacher, Aubrey.”
Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients use art and the creative process, to “explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self awareness, manage behavior and addictions…reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem” (American Art Therapy Association). An alarming 90% of incarcerated women have histories of trauma. Surviving trauma, especially when you have no means of escape, can often lead to the development of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Teaching our residents how to reconcile those emotional conflicts and foster self-awareness is one of our top priorities.
We are extremely grateful for the time, effort, and knowledge Aubrey Rainbow has dedicated to Friends of Guest House these past few months. A special thank you to Principle Gallery for hosting the event and Ridson Photography for capturing these special moments.