By Jessica Wooley
Providing a safe space for victims/survivors, artist Anne runs art groups at SECASA’s Seaford and East Bentleigh locations. The groups are held once a week for 12 weeks.
An atmosphere of creativity is provided, where participants are given the joy of learning artistic skills in a non-judgemental environment where they can use art as an avenue for self-expression.
Anne said that participants sometimes begin the 12-week course feeling hopeless and like they may not be able to achieve anything. By the end of the course they are feeling confident in their abilities, restored and delighted by their achievements.
At the end of each session, participants are encouraged to write in a personal journey notebook about any changes in mood they have noticed. Through the sense of community established in the classes, participants can go from feeling anxious or stressed at the beginning of the class, to feeling relaxed and happy by the end.
“It helps you not focus on the bad stuff in your life. But if you have bad stuff, then you can express it through art,” one of the participants said.
In 2017/18 the art group has been working beautifying the entrance to the East Bentleigh office. The Seaford group have been working on an Alice in Wonderland series which has been published in the 2018 SECASA calendar.
The art group utilises a variety of art forms, including clay, painting and mosaic. The women involved are taught the skills to be able to engage in these art forms, including how to create a mosaic and the kiln firing process for pottery.
When asked what their favourite part of participating in the art group was, members shared that “the group of women is awesome” and “seeing what everybody else does” were particularly inspiring aspects.
“It’s a safe place where we don’t have to talk about it, there’s no judgement,” another participant said.
“SECASA is the only CASA that has truly embraced the art groups and made it a consistent program implemented at its locations”, Anne said.
Participants are provided with morning tea and art supplies, with the opportunity to even take some supplies home to continue their work or create something new.
Anne said that the best part about taking the class is “seeing people flourish. A lot of people lead isolated and lonely lives. It is lovely to see people comfortable. Everybody understands why everyone is here and there’s a mutual understanding.”
As part of her ongoing research into the effects of arts practice on recovery after trauma, loss and grief (sexual abuse), Anne has asked the participants why they enjoy attending the classes.
“How does the Monday art group set you up for the rest of the week?”
“It helps to motivate me, keep my anxiety at a low level and encourages me to leave the house and be with other people who enjoy being creative.”
“It motivates me as I feel I have achieved something.”
“I start the week off on a positive, hoping the rest of the week follows.”
“I feel more energised to do things, particularly things I enjoyed in the past.”
“It gets me out of the house and provides me with the opportunity to stay sober on a Monday morning.”
“I like it very much. Weekends can drag and art is something to look forward to.”
“It enables me to have a more positive vision.”
“It provides me with a calmness of spirit, rather than rushing in it, it allows me to begin the week slowly.”
“I love Monday! Time flies on Monday. Doing artwork is fun and relaxing.”
What is it about creating your art as part of a group that is appealing?
“It’s our own community, built on trust, acceptance and laughter.”
“Enjoy looking at what others have created. General conversations – and the topics that are discussed within the group”.
“Having a sense of belonging – a common interest, a common story – in a creative environment has been an inspiring experience”
“Motivation. Sharing ideas and stories/experiences. Feeling safe and relaxing … lowers anxiety. Making friends”.
“Being in a group helps with support; encourages sharing and provides a safe space for a chat while working.”
“Learning problem-solving and techniques. Listening to other people’s stories. Observing the different ranges of creative minds! Interaction is the attraction. Anne and Julie (counsellor) always available to show how! Idea and inspirational creativity!”