Thursday I had the pleasure of sitting in on a workshop facilitated by CREATORS Colleen and Laura, who work for Family Service of Rhode Island. This workshop was special to me because it was the first workshop I was ever able to observe or participate in. I’ve gotten to write about so many of the amazing CREATORS, and share the artworks that have been created, but until now, I’ve never seen a workshop in action!
Colleen and Laura’s population is a mix of both children and parents involved in Foster care.
(LEFT TO RIGHT: Colleen, Laura)
We began by defining what it means to be a safe space, and what our safe space would include. Colleen wrote phrases like ‘no negativity’ and ‘no self-judgment’ on the whiteboard. Everyone was able to include what would make the space feel safe and comfortable for them. Doing this really set the tone to create an inclusive and positive environment.
The workshop, ‘Dual Emotions’, includes two half faces which participants can use to express emotions any way they want. They can be two conflicting emotions the individual feels, or more maybe, more secretively, the two sides of themselves. The great thing about these workshops is there’s so much freedom. There are no rules you have to adhere to. All the materials are placed out in front of you, and you have the choice to use whatever, however you want.
I had five exams this past week, and I really needed a moment to reflect, slow down, and let my creativity play. As a college student, so much of my everyday life is graded and critiqued. There is very little room for creative freedom and expression without consequence. It was beyond empowering to do something that didn’t have a right or wrong answer.
Something that I’ve heard CREATORS say a lot — but finally sunk in as I participated in the workshop — is that it’s really about the process, and not at all about the product. It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist or not. It’s about internal reflection. It’s about slowing down, having fun, and being creative.
Art, historically, has been wrapped up on the wrong side of mental health. The stereotype of tortured artists have convinced so many that we must let our trauma consume us. That, to create, we must hang on to our pain. When I was younger and first starting to write, I felt like everything I made had to be poignant, raw, and perfect. For a long time, I stopped writing all together. The pressure was too much, and it stopped making making me happy. Since then, I’ve unsubscribed to these ideologies, and doing so has been unbelievably freeing.
When I looked at my blank faces, I had no idea what I was going to make. It had been such a busy week, I honestly had no energy left in my body. I just started gathering materials without thinking, and slowly, the knots in my brain worked themselves out, and I realized what I wanted to say.
The left side of my picture represents how I feel seen by others: as small, as a suggestion. As empty or see-through. The right side represents how I feel. I started tracing the shape of the face over and over, trying to give the illusion of depth. Looking at it now, it reminds me of the rings of a tree trunk. It wasn’t intentional, but it’s really fitting. I feel like there is a lot inside of me. So much energy. So many layers. Sometimes, I feel like I’m still getting to know myself.
(The above picture of the Dual Emotions is mine, and the following two are other pieces from the workshop.)
I got too sucked into my own project that when I finally looked up and around at what everyone else made, I was shocked. We all were given basically the same materials, yet we each created something completely different. Sharing is never a requirement for workshops, but on this day, a handful of us wanted to share. Getting to hear the thought process and stories behind everyone’s Dual Emotion artwork is really special. Looking at the artwork, you think you understand it. But, once it’s explained for you, you see it in a whole new way. In this way, the Dual Emotions workshop reminds us that everyone has so many sides and stories. That we can never take for granted what someone has experienced by how they appear on the surface.
Thank you so much to Colleen and Laura for letting me sit in and see firsthand the magic behind these workshops. I am so thankful and inspired by the work you do.
Victoria Rose is a writer and musician from Providence, Rhode Island. email@example.com