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Chelan launching art therapy project to help kids

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Art is a powerful tool to help human beings deal with loss, and to the credit of the folks in the greater Chelan area, a community-driven project is being launched to bring that tool to those in need.

Rich Watson, who heads up the North Central Washington Business Loan Fund and serves on the Chelan Community Roundtable, stopped by to talk about the partnership with Art With Heart, a nonprofit that provides training for volunteers to mentor kids using art therapy.

The organizations provides not only training but also workbooks in English and Spanish for various age groups. The books ask simple and probing questions that invite a person to express themselves with words, pictures or with some other representation.

Art With Heart is working with communities all over the country.  

Originally, this program was intended to focus on kids in need in the Chelan and Manson areas — creating a community tool that focused on tapping into volunteers to work with small groups of kids. 

But with the devastating Carlton Complex fire and the loss of homes, they saw an opportunity to help kids who were traumatized by their experiences. So they've made that a priority by partnering with the Methow Arts Alliance. Volunteers from the Methow Valley, Pateros and Brewster are going to receive training to help fill that need.

They are bringing in two trainers from Seattle on Sept. 15 to help 25 individuals build their confidence and capability in doing art therapy work. It's not about being a trained artist, Watson told me. Instead, it's about building relationships with kids, talking with them and letting them express themselves in a way that is meaningful to them.

Here's what I appreciating hearing from Watson. He told me that individuals need to take responsibility for helping deal with the challenging issues in our community rather than just foisting these kinds of programs on the schools or the professional therapy community. This is about building community capacity. 

The other interesting aspect is that this not just for kids — this can be helpful for people of all ages, Watson noted.

Art With Heart is not an expensive program — $4,200 to train 25 volunteers over two days — and it seems like a powerful way North Central Washington communities could take an important step in helping kids who have suffered loss, trauma and other types of abuse.

Perhaps we can find a way to build community capacity throughout the region through Art With Heart.

Here's a link to the Art With Heart website:


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