Art Therapy Program Helps Children Cope with Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: SUSAN D. BRANDENBURG

With a few simple brush strokes, the young artist paints a dramatic study in pain.

In the watercolor painting, a small, smiling child reaches up to grasp the hands of two unhappy adults. The man and woman on either side of her appear faded and incomplete. In blue pencil at the top of the painting are the words "This is what I would do if I could."

"She wants to hold on, doesn't she?" observed Kevin Bailey, director of art therapy for the Child Guidance Center, as he conducted a tour of children's mixed media artwork exhibited at the center's Southside St. Augustine Road location recently in honor of Mental Health Month.

Using watercolor, oil and acrylic paints, pencils, markers, crayons, clay, papier mache, fingerpaints and more, children created problem-solving collages, obstacle maps, mood paintings, before-and-after drawings, masks, sculptures and more.

"Art therapy is a safe method for the children we serve to explore some of the most difficult issues they face," said Bailey.

Since September, through a $10,000 grant from the Blue Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc.), Bailey has trained 30 mental health counselors in art therapy, and the Child Guidance Center has established art therapy studios at each of its four Duval and one Baker County locations.

"The Blue Foundation made it possible for us to reach hundreds of youth through art therapy during the past year," said Veronica W. Valentine, president of the Child Guidance Center, which provides mental health and social services annually to more than 3,500 children, from birth to age 21.

Representing the Blue Foundation, Bruce Middlebrooks of Blue Cross toured the exhibit with Valentine as Clifton Peters of the Jacksonville Children's Commission (also a contributor to the art therapy program), strolled among the works of art with Bailey. …