Recovery through artistry

A Jefferson City program uses art to help adolescents gain sobriety
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:13 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
In preparation for Thursday’s opening, ART~C Project Director Kasey Harlin, center left, and substance abuse counselor Robia Fields place name cards while youths hang artwork at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia.

Josh Rice has dreams. At 16, he’s fixing up a 1984 Camaro and looks forward to driving it. He wants to go to film school on the West Coast and make music videos. He wants to travel to the Virgin Islands.

But he also has obstacles. Earlier this year, the Columbia teen’s marijuana use resulted in his stay at the Jefferson City branch of Preferred Family Health Care. There, he got involved with the center’s ART~C program, short for Achieving Recovery Through Creativity.

If you go

What: An exhibit from the ART~C program for teens recovering from substance abuse. When: Through Aug. 17. A public reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Where: Perlow-Stevens Gallery, 812 E. Broadway.

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The center provides a two-month recovery program and a follow-up outpatient program to central Missouri adolescents ages 12 through 17 who have substance abuse problems. ART~C, pronounced “artsy,” provides therapy to teens like Rice through art projects.

“Sometimes we listen to music and just draw whatever we want to,” Rice said.

He didn’t realize until recently the impact art therapy had on him. “Sometimes when I’m in a hateful mood, it helps,” he said.

Now an outpatient, Rice lived at the center from March to May of this year. “I didn’t like it at first. I wanted to get high, and I didn’t want to face the facts,” he said.

Over time, he realized he needed help and recalled the moment that it sank in: “I was listening to a Tupac song and (ART~C director Robia Fields) was asking us what was most hurtful about what we had done. Then I started thinking about how much I had hurt my mom.”

Another outpatient, 16-year-old Katie Jenkins of Columbia, is also in the ART~C program. “Drawing helps get things off my mind,” she said. “It’s relaxing and kind of takes everything away.”

Jenkins began her treatment for cocaine, marijuana and alcohol abuse at a facility in Clinton before moving to the Jefferson City center.

“I was into bad drugs,” she said. “I wanted help.”

But it took a court order to get her there.

“I’m happier and in a better mood — I felt angry before and sick all the time,” said Jenkins, who also credits her father. “He is my hero. He has always been there for me.”

As part of their outpatient treatment, Rice and Jenkins return to the center twice a week for counseling and once a week for ART~C sessions. Rice said he has found, unexpectedly, that he uses art therapy methods to deal with problems.

“I was in a really bad mood one day, so I started doing one of the things we did in class,” he recalled. The exercise was one in which he had been told to write down or draw what he was angry about and then rip the paper to pieces and throw it away.

Robia Fields has run the ART~C program in Jefferson City since 2005. She said she gets her inspiration for projects everywhere; even ceiling tiles at the center are painted by ART~C teens. In talking with them, it is clear the teens respect Fields and are willing to try things because of her.

“I’m fighting for that one person that’s listening,” Fields said. “Everybody has gone through something, and if you talk with them, maybe you have gone through the same thing.”

Fields sees art as a way for her to connect with the teens. But more important to her is that it gives them a sense of accomplishment.

“It’s rewarding for them to say ‘I didn’t know I could do that!’” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

While Rice and Jenkins are well on their roads to recovery, some ART~C participants such as 16-year-old Cori Stanley of Columbia, are just beginning the drive. Stanley, who started her inpatient program on June 22, was scared to go to the center. As she molded a heart out of clay during one of the art sessions, she shared a small piece of her story.

“I was really into alcohol, but I didn’t want to be here,” she said. “I miss my family and friends, but I know I need to do this for myself.”

Stanley is relying on her mother to help her in recovery, but art therapy has a place, too. “It distracts me and gets out feelings,” she said.

Art projects by Stanley, as well as Rice, Jenkins and others in the Jefferson City ART~C, are among the more than 30 pieces on display this month at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in downtown Columbia. “I think it’s

cool to have our stuff there,” Stanley said.

Co-owner Jennifer Perlow said a reception Thursday is open to the public.

“It will be an opportunity for people to gather and support the kids,” she said.

The items are for sale — expensive enough to make money for the program but still affordable, Perlow said.

Perlow has a surprising tie to the teens in the ART~C program.

“I actually used to live in a live-in drug rehabilitation center when I was kid,” she said.

But she wasn’t a patient. Both of her parents were live-in counselors at the center in Texas. “I think art gives these kids self-confidence,” Perlow said. “It grows the piece that was missing.”

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Jim Wallis July 14, 2007 | 9:10 p.m.

I am a VP of Adolescent Services in the St. Louis area for Preferred Family Healthcare.

I would just like to say, that the Missourian's article on ART-C is one of the best I have read.

You do a great job in tying the art work into the true meaning and purpose of what ART-C attempts to accomplish.

Clean and Sober, productive young people to lead the next generation.

Thanks for your effort and coverage of this topic.

Jim Wallis
VP Eastern Adolescent Services
Preferred Family Healthcare

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