WOOSTER — Steve Shapiro said he was in awe in August 2015 when the conversion of The Village Network’s administration building into something quite different was revealed.
He and his wife Cheryl were benefactors for the Cheryl and Steve Shapiro Center for the Expressive Arts, constructed within the former operations building.
Visitors could be equally in awe of what they find inside the Center today, as it is beginning to be filled with the expressions of youth seeking healing and restoration at The Village Network.
The center is a reflection of the focus on the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, which involves retraining the brains of children and youth to repair the areas in which development was impaired by trauma.
Proponent of this model, Dr. Bruce Perry, an internationally-recognized authority on children in crisis, has also touted the impact of the arts in creating normalcy and transcending all differences, including culture, said The Village Network’s grant-writer, Leeann Hastings.
Art is the most basic form of nonverbal communication, Hastings said.
“Art is its own therapy,” said Paul Tish, The Village Network’s expressive arts facilitator, describing the arts as “a healing process in and of itself,” giving the youth not only “the skills to express themselves,” but also coping mechanisms and confidence.
It’s made a world of difference, in Tish’s opinion, that he has made an effort to display the fruits of their labor in the Center for Expressive Arts.
“I’m going to show your stuff off,” he told them. “That motivated them.”
“They view it as a reward … (and take) ownership,” Hastings said.
On display are a variety of media, beginning with snowmen painted with tempera on canvas and moving to tessellation, fitting together arrangement of shapes; and self-portraits.
“Tessellation is a form of pattern-making that really resonates (with them),” Tish said.
It can create unique final products while “ordering their brain … to do pattern work,” Tish said, adding, “Combining certain things in their brain helps them to cope.”
The same may be true for Zentangle art meditative pattern-making, rather “complex when done,” Tish said. “It’s a lot of fun, but very challenging at times.”
Also on display are origami pine trees, of which Tish said, “Some of the kids really got into that paper-folding.”
Alcohol ink art tiles, which began as a project in The Village Network girls’ program home called the Nadine Smith Foster EFAS Park and spread across campus from there, have been very popular, Tish said.
“I’m always trying to come up with new ideas to keep (youth) engaged,” he said.
Self-portraiture projects have been especially revealing, according to Tish. “Their personalities came out.” Additionally, “They loved seeing themselves (on display) on the wall.”
Pointing out one portrait in particular, Tish said, “It looks like him in a certain way.”
And in another, Tish highlighted, “This is helping her work out some issues.”
One young woman who finished her tenure at The Village Network left behind her portrait of silhouette figures framed by the sky, telling Tish, “Think of me out there celebrating in the sun.”
Showing a piece of art using a pouring technique, Tish said, “It’s artistically profound. (The young artist) spilled her heart out onto that canvas.”
“The creative process itself is therapeutic,” said Tish, noting if a student is not comfortable with the project at hand, he or she can perhaps strum on a ukulele while others work on it.
“As long as they’re doing something creative, I’m satisfied,” he said, believing “something good is happening inside of them.”