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'It saved my life': Art therapy helps heal those impacted by gun violence

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Posted at 2:16 AM, May 31, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — A new art exhibition showcases work by those impacted by gun violence. The program is using art as a form of therapy.

Young people from Indy Peace Fellowship learned glassblowing, printmaking, ceramics and more as a part of Healing HeARTs, a program that’s using artmaking and grief support to process complicated emotions and trauma. 

It’s a partnership among Indy Peace, Brooke’s Place and the Indy Art Center.

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Healing HeARTs Art Exhibition

"You don't know what you can do so try everything,” said Jacob Taylor.

The 17-year-old was hesitatant to go through the program at first, but now his own work is proudly displayed at the Indy Art Center.

From glass flowers, to welding sculptures, Taylor's art tells a unique story, carefully crafted by someone impacted by gun violence.

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Healing HeARTs Art Exhibition

"It heals you up on that part, on the grieving part and stuff like that, helps you open up more,” said Taylor.

He's one of a dozen Indy Peace Fellows that participated in the 10-week program centered around healing through art and counseling.

"When you hear other people going through the same stuff. Now you feel like you're not alone,” said Taylor. “I made friends in the group.”

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Healing HeARTs Art Exhibition

Mary Alexander, the Vice President of community intervention for the Indy Public Safety Foundation, developed Healing HeARTS based on Project FIRE, a glassblowing and trauma-recovery program for youth injured by gun violence in Chicago.

"Sometimes, people bottle up emotions, you're not able to express yourself and by doing that through art, whether it's glass blowing, welding, ceramic, you're able to express yourself differently,” explained Alexander.

She also said it teaches the fellows how to trust, problem-solve and persevere in life beyond art.

It’s a form of expression that also helped turn things around for Robert Booker in 2019, who’s now a life coach for the Indy Peace Fellowship.

"It saved my life then it brought everything to light," he said. "If you see my painting, it's a hand grabbing a hand. That's what inspired me, it was like God reached out to me."

Booker also added he hopes programs like these will help young people choose a positive path, just like he did.

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Healing HeARTs Art Exhibition

"Doing this art therapy is one step towards the right decisions and bettering their life,” he said.

For Taylor, who came to the program all 10 weeks, it’s sparked a new interest in photography that he wants to keep pursing.

"I got my own little camera and everything now so I definitely think I will keep on doing this type of stuff," he said.

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Healing HeARTs Art Exhibition

On Thursday, Mayor Hogsett declared June "Gun Violence Awareness Month" in Indianapolis.

Healing HeARTs art exhibition will be on display from June 1 to July 31 at the Indy Art Center.

Admission to the Art Center is always free, and it is open seven days a week:

  • Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.;
  • Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
  • Sunday noon-6 p.m.