Bauhaus Gallery, 788 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood will host the opening of “Finding Voices”; an exhibit of original art created by young women in grades 10-12 at UrbanPromise Academy in Camden, NJ. The event will be held Saturday, January 11 from 7- 9 pm and is open to the public. It is the first exhibit of these young artists who participated in a weekly class designed to facilitate self-discovery and empowerment through an exploration of art, writing, personal wellbeing, and the natural world. “Finding Voices” will remain at Bauhaus Gallery through the end of January.
“We started every class with a mindfulness practice - a body scan - teaching students how to quiet their minds and focus on the moment is a powerful antidote to the stress most of them experience daily," said Rebecca Bryan, MSN, NP, director and founder of the UrbanPromise Wellness Center and facilitator of Finding Voices. The holistic and experimental program was created in response to the effects of daily life in Camden City, where violence and poverty shape a daily existence that can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other disabilities in its residents, especially children and teens.
According to researchers Ruth Gerson, M.D. and Nancy Rappaport, M.D. of New York University and Harvard University respectively, “Adolescents with PTSD are at increased risk for major depression, aggression, and conduct disorder…Youth exposed to violence or maltreatment perform less well academically and are more likely to drop out of school.” Such an environment has a “particularly strong effect” on females, who face the added risk of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. One of the best ways to counter these negative outcomes, according to Bryan is to provide a safe and supportive space in which young women can learn, reflect and engage in discussion.
"We had the students examine their lives through the lenses of artists' lives including Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe and contemporary artists Mickalene Thomas—A Camden native-- and Lorna Simpson. The girls came to see how relationships and choices impacted the artists' lives, then related it to their own lives. We explored what it meant to have a sense of self, both internally and externally,” said Bryan, obviously proud of her students. "It is rewarding to read each student's rule of life and realize the insights they have gained through this coursework."
The portraits on display at Bauhaus this month are the visual manifestation of the young women’s journey of self discovery. "This class has helped me to see that I can get over any struggle that may come my way. I think writing rules of life will help a lot of girls see how much they can respect themselves," said UrbanPromise Junior Ashley Williams.
Added her classmate Faith Korma: "When I started the Finding Voices course, I thought my goal for the class would be to, obviously, find my voice. But instead, I found my imagination."
The Finding Voices program was enabled through a $15,000 Margaret Hall Foundation grant.
UrbanPromise is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children and youth with the supports they need to succeed academically, grow spiritually, and prepare for leadership that will bring positive change to their communities. This is accomplished through after-school programs, summer camps, job training, two schools, experiential learning, and a host of other enrichment activities. To learn more, please visit www.urbanpromiseusa.org.