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Arts & Education Council grants $120,000 to help heal trauma in St. Louis through the arts

June 12, 2017 photo. Patty Prewitt (right) and Amy Sherrill perform a scene from "Run-On Sentence" in the Prison Performing Arts production at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center
File photo
Prison Performing Arts
Amy Sherrill (left) and Patty Prewitt perform a scene from "Run-On Sentence" with the Prison Performing Arts program. New grant funding will support Prison Performing Arts and 11 other organizations that use the arts to promote healing.

A dozen organizations in the St. Louis region that use the arts to help people deal with trauma will share $120,000 in grants from the Arts & Education Council.

Recipients include Prison Performing Arts, Intercultural Music Initiative and St. Louis Artworks.

“These populations that they’re serving have dealt with a lot of trauma from various places. And you have to take unconventional paths to healing,” said Jessireé Jenkins, grant and program manager at Arts & Education Council. "And many of these organizations have figured out how to do that.”

The grant-maker distributed $115,000 in the first year of its Arts and Healing Initiative, last year. The organization has funding for three more rounds of annual grants to similar groups.

The latest grant recipients also include St. Louis Classical Guitar, a nonprofit organization that provides music education to students in St. Louis, Jennings, Hazelwood and the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

The Arts & Education Council funding will support a new, 15-week program designed for young adults dealing with substance abuse, including teens who have recently been released from Clayton Juvenile Detention Center.

Participants will learn to build and play their own guitars, St. Louis Classical Guitar Executive Director Travis Lewis said.

“It promotes mastery and accomplishment,” Lewis said. “For a lot of kids who end up in the system, they haven’t had the opportunity to see something through to completion and actually have that work presented to the public."

Participants will display their finished guitars in a local art gallery and have the chance to offer them for sale.

Bread and Roses Missouri will direct grant funds to its Workers’ Theater Project, which recruits working-class St. Louisans and uses theater to examine the roots of poverty and inequity in the St. Louis region.

The Angel Band Project links music therapists with survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Rustic Roots Sanctuary, a farm in Spanish Lake, will lead art projects at a local farmers market.

YourWords STL will use its grant to continue a project it launched in 2015, bringing together students at schools located north and south of the so-called Delmar divide in St. Louis — a physical boundary marking the gap in wealth and quality-of-life indicators created by generations of disinvestment from neighborhoods north of Delmar Boulevard. Housing segregation was enforced for decades by local officials, bankers and real estate developers through redlining and withholding loans from Black applicants.

Students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades convened by YourWords STL meet in small groups to write and share poetry. They also attend workshops and participate in discussions about race and identity.

“At the base of all of our programming is the idea that, if one can articulate oneself and feel heard, that there can be a real physical healing from trauma,” said Anna Ojascastro Guzon, co-founder and program director of YourWords STL. “If young people can use language to get to know themselves and each other, we can bring about racial healing and also healing at the individual level.”

Past sessions of the program have connected students at Parkway Northeast Middle School in Creve Coeur and Margaret of Scotland School in Shaw with students attending St. Louis Catholic Academy in Penrose and Loyola Academy in Grand Center.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.