Odyssey House is a residential treatment center in New York City that seeks to “help New Yorkers in need overcome drug and alcohol abuse, improve their physical and mental health, and defeat homelessness” (Odyssey House website). The residents include mothers of young children, elderly people, people navigating chronic homelessness, and people having mental health issues-- some of the hardest hit by our city and country’s racist policies, lack of education and health care.
From 2009-2012 I worked in Odyssey House’s incredible art department, assisting the art director, running art groups and helping residents with their art projects.
I witnessed an art department that was not overly programmed or force fed to the residents, but rather allowed participating artists to design their own projects based on interest, come and go as they pleased, and be creators in their own natural process. The atmosphere was shaped by respect.
The resident artists explored different themes in their work, like home, dreams and the masks we wear; they put thoughts and feelings on paper and canvas and gave them shape in sculpture. I helped the young children of the mothers program make colorful spin art, witnessed large-scale collages evolve layer after layer, and sat around needle-pointing for hours with a group of eldercare residents telling stories and commiserating over tangled yarn. I developed a deep faith in the healing qualities of the creative process.
“Every year, we invite all our clients to participate in the Odyssey House Art Project, which culminates in an exhibition of their work. The annual event has become a focal point for our clients and a public showcase of art’s powerful ability to help people find beauty, meaning, and purpose in their lives. [...] As one client said, ‘Art has a redemptive power. No matter how dark your past is, you can use it to create something beautiful.’” - Odyssey House website
In our current political climate, not just demeaning but outright hostile to economically and racially marginalized people, the gap between the privileged and those who face oppression seems more like an abyss.
The Odyssey House art room is one small haven for collective expression, healing and empowerment in a part of New York City that is ravaged by systemic racism, poverty, substance abuse, and criminalization.
Please join me in making a donation to Odyssey House’s art studio. Our donation can help make more art supplies and creative resources available to a community that is grossly underserved as they prepare for their next annual art show and work to rebuild their lives.
Read more from Jerald Frampton, the Director of the Odyssey House Art Department here: https://www.odysseyhouseart.org/the-art-project/
And check out the Odyssey House online here: http://odysseyhousenyc.org/recovery-program-services/expressive-arts-studio/
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