There have been many testaments to the transformative power of art throughout time. Art is a means by which we can draw closer together as a community, to view an art piece together, thereby sharing a vision of the future or realizing a hope hidden deep within our hearts. Sometimes, the act of co-creating a work of art can tie people of disparate backgrounds together, healing divisions between people and also within ourselves. Art is created while in a state of flow, cooperation and coordination; in turn, art helps to foster a state of unity for all involved in its creation. It is in this spirit of cooperation and unity that the Averitt Center for the Arts began partnering with Freedom Through Recovery: Susan Ford Recovery Community Organization (FTR) to produce art programs designed to facilitate positive change within individuals and families in the community of Statesboro and surrounding regions, to give the opportunity to learn from Averitt Center art instructors and therefore discover art as a pathway to recovery from Substance Use Disorder to those in recovery, their families and allies, and to those seeking progressive health and well-being. “The partnership has allowed the Averitt Center to reach even more people in the community and engage with those seeking to enhance their quality of life through art,” says Kim Riner, visual art director.
In the program, “ART: All Recovery Transformations,” a body of work was created by members of the regional community in recovery from Substance Use Disorder and trauma, their families and allies under instruction of Riner and Cody Thomas. Recovery community members participated in learning various art forms and creative disciplines to produce work for an exhibition featured during National Recovery Month in September 2022 at the Averitt Center’s Rosengart Gallery on West Main Street. Multiple media were represented, made during a period of two long-term visual art courses taught by the two instructors. Art was used as a means of creative self-expression and discovery in the hopes that participants would continue to use art in their respective recovery journeys. Says program participant, Alana McSpadden, “Art has played a huge role in my recovery. When FTR asked me to create the title piece for their art show, it allowed me to express my creative side and reminded me of how passionate I was about it. This has been a game-changer for me.”
Prior to “ART: All Recovery Transformations” was the program “Harmonic Artistry,” with Thomas as instructor, also a long-term visual art education program designed to bring families closer together and to heal from the effects of Substance Use Disorder and trauma at the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Art. In addition, Thomas led the recovery community in creating the visual art piece, “Prints of Recovery,” comprised of countless fingerprints from each of the community members to create a lotus flower, an international and timeless symbol of re-birth and transformation.
“This artwork is dedicated to Mark William Coultas, my late half-brother who was in recovery for 30 years,” said Thomas. “The ups and downs are a part of the process; nothing is going to be perfect and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. The piece is also dedicated to those who are in recovery, out of recovery or have family or other connections to recovery. Communication and community action provide hope for a positive future.”
Throughout the last year, Averitt Center for the Arts has continued to co-produce long-term visual art education with Freedom Through Recovery under the instruction of Georgina Osuna-Diaz, offered to those in recovery from Substance Use Disorder, their families and allies, and to those healing from trauma and seeking progressive health and well-being. The classes have been so well received that the Averitt Center and FTR had to apply for additional funding in order to accommodate the volume of families and individuals interested in participating. These classes are currently available and open to the public at this time.
“The Averitt Center has given me another avenue for healing in recovery. The various media their workshops expose me to have tapped into a neglected creative side (as I believe we all have one) in a safe, fun environment with great people,” said Jennifer Mecko, program participant. “It’s a joy to see everyone’s personality expressed through clay, acrylics and other media.”
The healing power of art transforms not only the lives of individuals, but also families, groups of people, and the well-being of entire communities. As a recovery community, Statesboro is in a unique position to responsibly wield the restorative and transformative power of art, giving opportunities to those who have been historically silenced to speak their truth, tell their story, and change their hearts. Through the process of recovery, an individual rises out of trauma, grief and victimhood and is born into a new life of productivity, citizenship and responsibility to others. Recovery may be initially born of pain, but it is re-born of freedom, creating pathways of life unimagined by the person who is first starting out on their journey.
Artistic recovery as a pathway to progressive physical, mental and spiritual well-being has a long history of successfully revitalizing individual lives as well as entire communities of people. Throughout time, there have been notable periods of health and prosperity for communities through recognizing the value of both the process of creating art, as well as its final product, such as the Renaissance in Italy, which literally means “Rebirth,” whereupon artists such as Michelangelo acknowledged a direct spiritual path for his creativity, stating “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. Only God creates.” In a similar vein, Julia Cameron’s classic and monumental work, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” has helped countless people around the world transcend previous mental limitations, dissolving creative blockages and healing trauma wounds by creating art through spiritual connection. The Averitt Center for the Arts and Freedom Through Recovery are currently seeking to offer a workshop for “The Artist’s Way” program within the upcoming year.
“I’m excited that through the new programs we will be offering, parents will be receiving art education, children will be expressing their feelings through art, and families will be learning skills they can use at home, all the while learning the value of community,” said Catherine Tootle, executive director of Freedom Through Recovery, “because we believe that connection is the opposite of addiction.”
Julia Curiel has over a decade of administration leadership experience and education to date, serving the community through administrative roles at leading organizations in which she has worked to develop pilot programs, and plan and manage large-scale projects, including nationally recognized art fairs, education workshops and outreach programming. She is currently a recovery coach at Freedom Through Recovery in Statesboro.