Breaking barriers to literacy and self-expression through art.

Adult art classOverview

The New Lots Adult Learning Center serves a brave group of individuals from the surrounding community seeking to secure their high school equivalency (HSE) diploma. Many of them, especially those who are in their senior years, live their daily lives in “survival mode.” In this mode, being able to financially provide for one’s family is the only priority that matters. Education becomes secondary or completely neglected. Therefore, they continuously encounter financial and educational barriers throughout life. At the same time, emotional barriers arise and compound these problems, which often manifest as self-doubt, insecurity, shame, stress, etc. Due to pride or embarrassment, many in our community suffer silently with these feelings unless probed or prompted. Therefore, we have centered our project around art therapy, a less intimidating approach to self-expression. What’s more, art therapy can teach our participants to become more self-aware, develop a positive self-image, and become responsible for their own well being and happiness. As an added feature, we will recruit young adults who will act as mentors to our senior aged group. Their vitality, openness, and ability to quickly grasp new concepts will be key to keeping our older group on track and actively engaged. During each of our several weekly workshops, the mentors will experience the lesson as participants and then coach the older adults in practicing the newly learned skills. For the young adults, this process will help to solidify these new ideas, and teach them respect for their elders. Our plan is to equip all of our participants with an array of tools and resources to identify and breakthrough emotional barriers to accomplishing their goals. Workshops will focus on fine art, but will also expose participants to other art forms, such as performance and visual art. Instructors will showcase various techniques, such as drawing simple images, doodling, acting, dancing, writing, etc. Students will be given a toolkit containing a blank journal and basic art supplies, such as color pencils, ruler, pencils, erasers, water paints and brushes. Additional supplies as requested by the facilitators will also be included. These materials will allow the students to work at home and here at the library. Students will be evaluated on a regular basis to track progress via attendance, participation and self-assessment surveys. The program cycle will culminate with a reception, including presentations and displays of student work. Our community partners will include art teachers, artists, performers, art therapists, educators, elected officials, and other key stakeholders within the New Lots community. Respectively, they will assist us in evaluating our students and educating them on artistic therapy techniques in self-expression to improve mental health and educational success. Partners will also support our efforts to procure participants, provide relevant program data, and build viable community relationships.

Desired Outcomes

Indicators of successful outcomes include:
- Active participation in the program to completion
- Increased comfort with self-expression
- Measurable breakdown of barriers to education

Along with our health and art professionals we will design and/or select a curriculum best suited for our students. Within this curriculum, we will include surveys and various assessment tools to ascertain students' self-recognized and hidden barriers to success in education. Benchmarks will also be set to encourage and measure progress in the breakdown of these aforementioned barriers. Since no instruments exist to formally measure progress in art therapy, these benchmarks will most likely be qualitative, and will include tracking achievement in activities, increased ability with self-expression techniques, mastery of program concepts, attitude and behavioral improvements, etc.

This proposal was prepared for the Adult Learning Center at the New Lots Library. Next ⇒

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