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Jer’s Vision workshops to teach art therapy

Middle-school students encouraged to create as a coping mechanism

Jer's Vision conference manager Faye Estrella is creating art-infused workshops for Ottawa middle-school students.

As a bullied teen, Jer’s Vision conference manager Faye Estrella (who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun they) used art as a means of escape.

Now, as the conference manager for Jer’s Vision, Estrella will help teens develop their own creative outlets as a coping mechanism against bullying in workshops presented at Emily Carr Middle School and Queen Elizabeth Public School later this month.

The theme for the workshops is We All Have a Role.

“Art is a great way to cope with things that happen. There are a lot of preventative workshops that we do, but this is about what happens afterwards,” Estrella says. “What are the skills and tools that you can have?”

Coupled with workshops focused on resilience, the artistic workshops will encourage middle-school students to use visual art and creative writing as tools to overcome negative emotions.

As a teen, Estrella wrote poetry, kept journals, painted and sculpted, then left the paintings and sculptures in the common area of their high school. “It was a way to deal with a lot of my emotions that I didn’t know how to address,” they say. “[Leaving artwork behind] was a way to express something and then let it go.”

Canada’s education system does not prepare students for emotional management, Estrella says.

“Understandably, there are different capacities for each youth to feel emotions. They can be super overwhelming. I was one of those kids. If I was sad, it was the end of the world. What really helped me with that was channelling it through art.”

While art can be a solo endeavour, Jer’s Vision founder Jeremy Dias says sharing the finished product with peers can also allow a marginalized teen to gain a sense of belonging. “Art is one of those tools in the toolbox that empowers students,” he says. “It makes them feel like they are part of a community.”

Today, Estrella is a well-known musician and slam poet who knows many contemporaries who pursued the arts as an avenue to overcome negative emotions. Art can alleviate the after-effects of intense trauma in adulthood, Estrella says.

“A lot of the poets I know in the community went through the same thing and found that poetry was a great outlet. I know artists or dancers where that was their motivation. I find that many youth really connect to that in a way,” they say. “Three minutes of creating a mood and an atmosphere is really poignant.”

For more information, go to jersvision.org.