Creating without fear: ‘Art for Healing’ reduces stress, reinstills agency

Maddy Gould PZ ’19 works in the Empower Center, which works to support survivors and educated allies. There, she runs the “Art for Healing” program, mostly focused on providing self-care techniques to survivors. (Elinor Aspegren • The Student Life)

CW: Mentions of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking

Maddy Gould PZ ’19 unfurled student art on a table that was made in the Empower Center’s event “Art for Healing,” a lunchtime activity designed to provide healing and support to survivors of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking. Many are just watercolor scribbles, others are scenes from nature, and others have self-care mantras.

“I’m trying to create a space for expression and release without too much overthinking,” Gould later wrote in an email to TSL. “If all else fails, the event simply acts [as] a space for some intentional self-care and a reprieve from stress.”

Gould runs “Art for Healing,” which she started in her sophomore year with a senior because they “felt like a space centered around creativity could be incredibly helpful for survivors.”

“Art for Healing” takes place in the Empower Center, which provides 7C confidential support to students impacted by sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking. They also promote collaborative, educational programming.

Although “Art for Healing” is open to any student who attends the Claremont Colleges, the event is mostly geared toward survivors, aimed towards allowing them to share, express, and emote without judgement, according to Gould.

Gould, who is also an Advocate for Survivors of Sexual Assault at Pitzer, leads students through trauma-based art activities, which consist of a “number of different activities in the space, ranging from expressions of self, to activities about release, visual representations of past, present, and future narratives, reflections on childhood.”

In her training for Advocates, Gould said that trainees emphasize “re-instilling agency” in survivors by providing them with a space to share their experiences and express themselves without judgement, concrete advice, or interrogation.

“Art for Healing” tries to provide that space. It’s about expressing and creating without fear,” Gould said. “The activities we do can also be done individually, so I try to emphasize that folks can use art as a form of self-care at home and can integrate the practice into their lives if it serves them.”

According to Rima Shah, the head of the Empower Center, “Art for Healing” provides a space to further deal with trauma.

“Art for Healing is one of our key programs and is part of our efforts to provide holistic support and care to our students,” Shah wrote in an email to TSL.

Shah added that the Empower Center is busy planning events for next semester, including a new weekly support group for survivors, programming with athletics, bi-weekly Masculinity Mondays sessions at CMC’s CARE Center, and a 5C-wide online survey about the Teal Dot bystander intervention program.

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