Hope Shores Alliance, Art in the Loft partner on art therapy program

News Photo by Jason Ogden Art in the Loft Director Justin Christensen-Cooper, left, and Hope Shores Alliance Executive Director Katy Conklin display a grant notification letter from the Women’s Giving Circle in the classroom area of Art in the Loft Wednesday. The $1,500 in funding will be used to kick off an art healing program for children ages 5-12 who are engaged in services, via their caregivers, from Hope Shores Alliance.

ALPENA — Hope Shores Alliance and Art in the Loft are partnering on a program funded through a grant that will offer scholarships for art therapy to children involved in domestic abuse cases.

Art in the Loft Director Justin Christensen-Cooper said the nonprofit received a grant from the Women’s Giving Circle, through the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, to conduct the project.

He said children involved in HSA services will get an opportunity to work in the Loft’s smART program with the scholarships.

“In 2017 we decided to expand our offerings for area youth, and that is how smART was created,” Christensen-Cooper said. “It’s for ages five through 12 and they get a broad range of artistic participation.”

He said the classes are held twice a month and students work on a variety of different artwork, including painting, clay and other types of art media.

“We saw an opportunity HSA and thought how we could expand on how we are servicing, but how can we get them in here at no cost to them, so we pursued (the grant) and we were awarded almost the full amount. We got $1,500 that is going to allow us to get kids that HSA services,” Christensen-Cooper said.

Conklin said there is a need for youths involved in transitional supportive housing through HSA to have an outlet. She said youths in the program often are dealing with domestic abuse issues and are living in temporary housing with a parent who may be starting over from an abusive relationship with a spouse.

“We have upwards of 40 children in any given time just in our transitional supportive housing program. We have children that come and go in the safe house, and we have children that are in our non-residential program for children,” she said. “(Christensen-Cooper) and I discussed how arts and art is a form of healing as well, and it can produce and create an outlet for these children to enhance their lives, to express themselves in art.”

She said allowing the children to be in the art sessions can have a positive impact on their lives and help them have an outlet from trauma caused from domestic abuse.

“The neurobiology of trauma plays into the whole big picture, and when you’re either witnessing trauma, or are exposed to trauma, that does have a permanent biological effect on the brain,” she said. “(This program) is happy stuff, good brain activity, organically healing. They’re coming up here and having a chance at childhood and being a kid.”

Although there is only $1,500 for funding for the program, Conklin and Christensen-Cooper desire to keep the program, which will start at the first of the year, going for a long time even after the grant is exhausted.

“We’ll just keep looking and pursuing, and we expect this to be very successful,” he said. “We have the capacity, we have the talent and the skills and people to administer it. Our staff is really excited about it.”

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.