“In 2006, Project Hope opened a Community Building on Dudley Street – the first LEED Silver certified, earth-friendly building in Roxbury – to serve as its headquarters and a neighborhood center for job training, adult education, housing counseling, community empowerment, and more. Shortly after that time we were the recipients of several pieces of art from The Art Connection. This past year, we created two new classrooms and renovated offices and meeting spaces throughout the building. This sparked us to apply to The Art Connection again. It has been a great experience from beginning to end,” gushes Peggy Comfrey, Executive Assistant at Project Hope.
Acting as a multi-service agency , Project Hope is at the forefront of efforts in Boston to move families up and out of poverty. It provides low-income women with children access to education, jobs, housing, and emergency services; fosters their personal transformation; and works for broader systems change. So it should come as no surprise that they joined forces with The Art Connection to fill their space with 25 original works of art. The donated artworks hang in common areas like classrooms, lounges, and hallways to provide a serene space for women at all stages of their growth.
Relaxing. Calm. Colorful. These were some of the words tossed around the room when the staff and clients on the selection committee were picking artworks that would be a good fit for their spaces. Project Hope was very open and honest about the ways they wished to see art used as a vehicle to enrich the lives of everyone in their facilities. Upon further inquiry by Program Manager Chanel Thervil, it became clear that there was a need to expose the women of Project Hope to art in a more hands on way. “The Art Connection has a great process for facilitating the choice of appropriate pieces of art. The group of staff and program participants who were engaged totally enjoyed the process. A special addition to all of this was that The Art Connection offered to do an art workshop for participants in our Adult Education class based on one of the pieces of art we chose. That was a wonderful experience for the women, many of whom discovered a secret artist within!” revealed Peggy.
Inspired by Jeannie Lindheim’s “Flying in the Air”, Chanel led a workshop where participants focused on painting abstract forms and symbols to tell stories of importance to them. Jeannie’s paintings use abstraction to lead viewers to have an open interpretation of what’s happening and what it could mean. This seemed like the perfect pairing for the women to act as storytellers, sharing experiences that have impacted them in a meaningful way. After opening the workshop with a mindful meditation activity and demos of different watercolor techniques, Chanel encouraged many of the first time painters to let their curiosity guide their paintbrushes.
“Some of these women have experienced many struggles and traumatic things, so to have an opportunity to do something like this is just really wonderful. It’s a break from their everyday and gives them an outlet for things that can be difficult to talk about,” explains Donna Henderson, Director of Adult Educational Services. “There were so many who not only tried new things, but also smiled for the first time in a while. It may not seem like a lot, but believe me the little things show how much this makes a difference for their well-being.”
Thanks to the support of Donna and the other Project Hope staff the workshop was a big hit! The majority of the participants said they would attend another workshop if it was offered. To bring the experience full circle, Project Hope provided all women who participated with a copy of “The Art Lesson” By Tomie dePaola. “It’s not just about a singular experience. We want the women to know that what they do and learn can be shared with their children. Art and literacy can be tied to each other to keep the cycle of sharing skills and experiences going,” says Donna.
Especially with all that is happening in our society today, it’s necessary to remain committed to providing spaces where people can use art as a refuge for reflecting, processing, expressing things that they are encountering in their daily lives. The Art Connection remains excited by the prospect of deepening partnerships with agencies like Project Hope moving forward.
To find out more about Project Hope check out their website: http://www.prohope.org/