Monday, August 31, 2015

A school for homeless kids and on one of their teachers.


Poster in the hallway at Monarch School, for homeless kids. San Diego, CA
A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended a fundraiser for the arts program at a K-12 school in San Diego. A school for homeless kids. About 350 kids attend Monarch School.
Rachelle Archer (teacher) and me and my husband Don at the fundraiser (and the artwork I donated for the silent auction).
Before the event started, I walked through the halls of the school and was moved by bulletin boards like this one.
Bulletin board in the hallway, by 3rd graders at Monarch School
From a 3rd grader, in response to "What makes Monarch School so Special?"
From  a 3rd grader, in response to "What makes Monarch School so Special?"
From a 3rd grader, in response to "What makes Monarch School so Special?"
From a 3rd grader, in response to "What makes Monarch School so Special?"

So, I want to share an interview I did with Rachelle Archer, the expressive arts therapist at Monarch School. I originally posted this interview in February 2013.


Art does heal.
+++++++++

Jane LaFazio: What is an expressive arts therapist?

Rachelle Archer: An Expressive Arts Therapist is an artist-helper who works as an agent of change, using the powerful traditions of the arts, ritual and play to facilitate processes of transformation and healing. We are action-oriented and solutions-focused. We work in all 5 art disciplines, using visual arts, dance/ movement, creative writing, drama and music to explore important images and metaphors that arise from the imagination. No prior art experience is needed for our students—our low-skill, high sensitivity approach makes it possible for anyone to express something meaningful through the arts. We work with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations as healers, coaches, educators, community builders and peace makers. 


"In shared moments together in the studio or in the classroom I CAN inspire them to dream, encourage them to hold on to their hopes, and teach them to take responsibility of their own feelings and choices so that they can make more empowered choices wherever they go."
Rachelle Archer, at work at Monarch School

JL: Tell us more about the Monarch School, in San Diego, California.

RA: The Monarch School is a unique K-12 alternative education program in downtown San Diego that serves students impacted by homelessness. We are a public-private partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and a 501 © 3 non-profit, The Monarch School Project. The County provides most of the educational program, while the non-profit raises funds for facilities, support programs such as after school, volunteers, community referrals, medical care, basic needs, counseling, family support and expressive arts therapy.

This spring Monarch School is located in a large  new facility in Barrio Logan, in downtown San Diego, California. 
students  ~ photo from Monarch School
At Monarch School ~ photo by Jane LaFazio
In the hallways at Monarch School ~ photo by Jane LaFazio
JL: What drew you to this kind of work? 
RA: I grew up in a very artistic missionary family and began participating in a variety of faith and arts-based outreach to inner-city youth all over the world at a very young age. Music, drama and visual arts were an integral part of those efforts, while also providing a therapeutic outlet for me personally. Combining the arts with helping and healing was something I always knew I would do. In my early twenties I discovered art therapy, which seemed like the perfect combination. After completing a BA in social work and spending a few years working with homeless youth in San Diego, I chose to pursue my dream of bringing healing arts to the population I was serving. I obtained my Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy, Education and Consulting in 2006 and in 2007 I became the full time Expressive Arts Therapist at Monarch.
Rachelle and some of her students
poster in the hallway at Monarch School
JL: When did you start working at Monarch School?

RA: I got involved in Monarch School in the fall of 1998, when it was a small drop-in center for street youth downtown. The school was growing and there was a huge need for creative outlets and after school care, so I started the after school arts program. I was the very first employee of the Monarch School Project and have enjoyed being involved in developing a variety of enriching and innovative programs for our youth over the years. Some of the things I’ve created here include the after school program, the steel drum band, many wonderful community partnerships, and the expressive arts therapy program.

student ~ photo from Monarch School


JL: Do you work with a group of kids, or one on one? Tell us about a class or lesson.

RA: Fortunately I get to do a lot of both! I offer individual therapy to 15-20 students each week. Students flourish with the one on one attention and processing personal themes through the arts in our small studio. I also get to teach classes and facilitate smaller boys’ and girls’ groups, and run monthly parent workshops.

One thing I’m particularly proud of is the really successful arts-based Community Building program I’ve developed here that allows me to work in most classrooms on campus once a week, year-round. This expressive arts course aims to increase engagement in school and develop a positive school culture. Through the arts and play we create an optimistic learning environment in the classroom where students know and understand one another better and work together in supportive ways. Each student gets an opportunity to shine as we explore various art forms such as painting or drawing, sculpting, creative writing, and performance art. The program offers rich avenues for reflection, personal growth and development as well as developing important social skills, healthy connection to peers and team building. 



"Students flourish with the one on one attention and processing personal themes through the arts in our small studio."

One of my favorite activities is something I call “Feel Good Freeze Dance”. It’s a fun way to get kids to notice the good in each other and give compliments. Once a group has gotten to know each other a bit and is working well together we have a dance party where each person creates a small poster with their name on it. Then we put on some peppy music and dance around the room. When the music stops each person has to write a compliment on a poster close to where they've frozen in the dance. By the end of the session everyone is moving and writing all at the same time, rushing from station to station to make sure they get a compliment on each student’s poster. Everyone in the group gets to leave with a colorful poster full of positive affirmations, which they often save for a long time afterwards. I have kids do posters for staff members, too. The pile I have saved from all the times we've done this cheers me up when I am having a bad day! I encourage my students to do the same. 
some of Rachelle's students
JL: Can you tell us a few stories about your students and their experiences? 

RA: A few years back a young lady was referred to me. She was 17, failing all of her classes and barely attending school. She and her family had been chronically homeless for over 8 years, with no relief, although she had been in our program since she was 11 years old. Her mother was disabled and unable to provide for her and her brother. This girl was worn out and depressed, moving from shelter to shelter, couch to couch, often not knowing where she would be eating or sleeping at the end of the day. We started slowly, building trust and exploring her interests in art and poetry. She started attending my ‘Coaching for Success’ class for high school students and found some hope for the future, by drawing out her dreams and hopes with others. She eventually hand-made a beautiful collection of her own poetry for her senior project, which she shared with a group of peers and staff. After 18 months in therapy, she graduated from Monarch with honors, enrolled in a local junior college, and later moved into her own place at a transitional living program. She is still doing well in college, studying dance and following her passion for creative writing! 


"This girl was worn out and depressed, moving from shelter to shelter, couch to couch, often not knowing where she would be eating or sleeping at the end of the day."

Another student story that still pulls at my heart is that of a 12 year-old girl that, growing up in the home of alcoholic parents too caught up in their addiction to notice, had been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend for over 6 years. She was often sad, lost in confusing memories, anxious, mistrusting and engaging in risky behaviors that were leading her down a destructive path. Splattering paint wildly and writing poetry with me week after week became a means to let out all the ugliness and find her freedom once again. After a few years her family was able to get affordable housing and she left our school. She transitioned to her neighborhood high school and is doing great. She continues to speak out against bullying and stand for victims of sexual violence.

There are so many stories like that. Kids who sleep in a van for six months with parents and siblings and still make honor roll and have perfect attendance at Monarch. Kids who’ve spent their whole lives blowing from shelter to shelter, finally land here and growing roots for the first time. Families who’ve run from domestic violence find a safe place with us and begin to flourish. It’s an honor to help them write new chapters in their lives!!! 



"There are so many stories like that. Kids who sleep in a van for six months with parents and siblings and still make honor roll and have perfect attendance at Monarch."
graduates ~ photo from Monarch School

JL: This work must be so bittersweet, helping the kids, then seeing them leave…What keeps you going? 

RA: I struggled with this quite a bit when I first started working with kids dealing with homelessness. What has really helped me is having a clear sense of what my role is. It can be really heart breaking to see them go, especially when they haven’t had a chance to make the most of all we have to offer them here. I have come to understand that I am not here to save them or fix their problems. In shared moments together in the studio or in the classroom I CAN inspire them to dream, encourage them to hold on to their hopes, and teach them to take responsibility of their own feelings and choices so that they can make more empowered choices wherever they go. If at the end of the day I know I have opened even some tiny door for my students to feel heard, seen, and valued, and they walk away feeling a little lighter, I can go home feeling satisfied—even if I never see them again. I have been blessed to see so many young people change while they are with us and that gives me hope that things can get better for them, whether here or somewhere else. Their resilience, optimism and open-heartedness inspires me every day!


"If at the end of the day I know I have opened even some tiny door for my students to feel heard, seen, and valued, and they walk away feeling a little lighter, I can go home feeling satisfied—even if I never see them again."
Wish list, from Monarch School website.

+++++++++

Thank you Rachelle, for who you are and all you do.





Saturday, August 29, 2015

Quilting Arts TV Series 1600 (and a giveaway)



Yup! I'm in three episodes of Quilting Arts TV Series 1600! I always buy the DVD set (even when I'm not in it). I keep the DVDs in my studio and re-watch them while I'm working. I always learn pick up something new!
I was thrilled to me Vivika deNegre, Editor of Quilting Arts magazine,  in person! 

On set filming earlier this year with Susan Brubaker Knapp.
And, I'm giving away a copy of Quilting Arts TV Series 1600!
That's 13 episodes! (sorry, but I can only ship to US and Canada for this one.) Leave a comment and tell your favorite type of creative sewing. I'll choose a winner on September 7th, so check back here to see if it's you!



Thursday, August 27, 2015

TRUE NORTH ~ text on textiles


detail "True North" from my Text on Textiles workshop ~ by Jane LaFazio
detail "True North" from my Text on Textiles workshop ~ by Jane LaFazio
I do love the color indigo. One of the world's first original colors! Now, it's the trend again and I'm thrilled. Makes me want to dye part of my hair blue...(oh, that's right, my bangs are blue!)
detail "True North"  ~ by Jane LaFazio
It was really fun to create this from my collection of blue fabrics. I started this piece the last time I taught my "Text on Textiles" workshop.
detail "True North" from my Text on Textiles workshop ~ by Jane LaFazio
detail "True North"  ~ by Jane LaFazio
 "True North" (12x12 inches) ~ by Jane LaFazio
True North (12x12 inches) by Jane LaFazio
I'll be teaching "Text on Textiles," along with Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style and Garden Patch  a brand new retreat, created by Pokey Bolton (founder of Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors magazines). 

CRAFT NAPA will take place in Napa, California in January 2016. Registration is open NOW!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wet Felting Essentials DVD inspires!

Wet felted piece ~ in progress ~  by Brigitte Otto
Completed piece ~ by Brigitte Otto
The piece above, by Brigitte Otto, was created after watching my new DVD 'Wet Felting Essentials for Fiber Artists." Pretty cool, huh? I love her design and then how she embellished it!

Wet Felting Essentials for Fiber Artists

You can leave your felting piece whole, like Brigitte did and I did below, in Paprika Construction Zone. Felt is such a pleasure to hand-stitch on.

Paprika Construction Zone (16x17 inches $125) by Jane LaFazio
Or, you can cut it up and reassemble you felted piece like I did, in the two below. Again, with oodles of hand-stitching.
Red Rock Petroglyphs (15x14 inches sold) by Jane LaFazio
Secret Symbols ~ by Jane LaFazio (12x12 inches. $275)
If you've watched my DVD and it has inspired you, let me know! I'd love to see what you made!

(Hey, did you know you can subscribe to my blog and get it in your email box every time I post? Go here and look in the upper right corner to add your email address)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

from my sketchbook ~ Arizona

Ready to teach! and carrying our drawing subject matter. (moving so fast, I'm a blur!)

One of the classes I taught, at Art Unraveled in Arizona, was "Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style." Probably my signature class and consistently the most popular. And my favorite! I really can teach people to draw and see their progress and confidence build in just one day! It's so satisfying!
Student work from  my Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style ~ right before lunch. I'm sorry I didn't get photos of  their completed pages! they were wonderful.

from my sketchbook ~ demoing in class for my 
Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style.
BeBop helped me finish the page at home
detail from my sketchbook ~ by Jane LaFazio
detail from my sketchbook ~ by Jane LaFazio
 detail from my sketchbook ~ by Jane LaFazio
 detail from my sketchbook ~ by Jane LaFazio

from my sketchbook ~ by Jane LaFazio
I hope you'll join me either in San Diego on September 12,  Minneapolis, MN on September 17,  or in Stamford, CT on October 11 for this workshop!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate ~ student work

Student work from my
Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing one day workshop.
This is work from the workshop I just taught at Art Unraveled in Arizona. 
step one
step two ~ mono-print a lot of paper
step three ~ mono-print some stronger images
step four: I guide you in creating an abstract collage. 

Student work from my 
Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing one day workshop.
Gorgeous, huh? I must admit the students were skeptical in the morning. They were wondering what they were going to do with a pile of colorful prints. But I showed them how to select and compose to create these lovely 10x10 inch collages.
Student work from my 
Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing one day workshop.
Student work from my 
Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing one day workshop.
Student work from my 
Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing one day workshop.
Student work from my 
Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing one day workshop.

I will be teaching Abstract Collage with the Gelli Plate Mono-printing again on Friday, September 18 in Minneapolis and on Friday, October 9 in Stamford, CT and on February 27, in San Diego, CA

(Hey, did you know you can subscribe to my blog and get it in your email box every time I post? Go here and look in the upper right corner to add your email address)
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