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06/05/2011


Saving Ourselves & Helping Others • by Melody M. Nuñez


Melody NunezART SAVES is a powerful sentiment, and it rings so true for me. I shared how art has helped me in my first Art Saves story — today I’ll share how I’m using art to help improve the lives of others. As one who has been helped in many ways by many wonderful people during my lifetime, I feel very strongly about helping others. I try to donate to charity and/or give my time to multiple causes each year. Whether it’s buying Secret Santa gifts for homeless children, or donating food to the local food bank, I regularly take action on charitably-based opportunities.

One of my favorite ways to donate time and money is through my own little art journaling project — something I first did back in 2003, and have done during four different school years thus far. My aunt, who is an amazing elementary school teacher, would tell me about her students and the challenges they face: poverty, abuse, gangs, exposure to drugs, and incarcerated or otherwise absent parents. Their stories broke my heart, and I knew I had to do what I could to help.

Providing a Creative Outlet
I decided I’d teach the kids visual journaling: the combination of writing/journaling, drawing, and collage. In addition to nurturing their creativity and language skills, I teach these classes in the hopes that I’ll give them a positive, creative outlet to help them process the crazy world we live in. Art and writing have been essential to me as I’ve traveled through life, and I am hoping these creative outlets will help these at-risk children as well.

Unable to buy all the necessary art supplies myself, I solicit donations from friends, family, and members of the art community. Thanks to the generosity of those who donate, each student receives a blank journal and a packet full of art supplies that they keep at school until the end of the school year. I teach an introduction to art journaling — and provide a handout with a how-to overview and journaling prompts for future use.

Excitement & Pride
As the school year progresses, my aunt has the children do additional work in their art journals and we finish with an end-of-year art journal show. The shows we’ve held in years past were a great success, and it always fills my heart with joy to see the excitement and pride of the children as they share what they’ve created. Art journaling, though simple in practice, helps these children in so many ways. It enhances their academic experience because they get excited about creating and working in their journals. It gives them a voice — another way to express themselves. It bolsters their self-esteem because they know many people have gone out of their way to provide them with something extra-special. They’re also lavished with praise and positive feedback as they create and then show their work.

Speaking of extra-special, art journaling particularly helps students facing additional challenges: ADD, autism, other learning disabilities, and emotional issues. My aunt usually has at least a handful of special-needs students in her class, and we’re always especially thrilled to see these children engaged in the process, diligently working, and having fun.

About Much More Than Myself
I recently finished another year of art journaling instruction, which means that over 30 more students have received the gift of art. I’d like to thank the CRESCENDOh community members who donated to the 2010 2011 class — so kind of you! Please know that your gifts of funds and supplies made a big difference in the lives of many, and they’re very thankful — as am I. I’d also like to thank the wonderful Jenny Doh, who provided both supplies and funds in support of this project!

I’m already planning for and looking forward to the class I’ll be teaching in the fall, and am so excited about the seeds of creativity and positivity that will be planted in this next group of children. Though my art journaling program is currently a small one, I can’t help but think of my own life and wonder where I’d be without the saving grace of creativity and the kindness of others. If I can improve the life of even one child, my efforts are more than worthwhile because my life is about much more than myself. Art Saves.

To learn more about Melody M. Nuñez, visit melodynunez.com.

Melody Nunez

Comments

I love the gift of growing art! It alters so many facets of one's life. It is the gift that keeps giving; I am thrilled you shared one of your passions with us. Seeing the children's art and joy in their drawings is such a wonderful gift! Art helps us to find joy, to balance those moments that we can not control. Such a valuable lesson you are planting, a coping tool they will use for life~ Thank you Melody for sharing your soul~xXx

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