Living Your Best Life

“Success is making a positive difference through art, making art that affects the world and that changes the way people feel about themselves and the world.”
–  Katerina Graham  

We strive for this kind of success!  Success where the children involved in the Garden of Fire program not only create beautiful pieces of artwork that change the landscape of their visual world, but that also changes the landscape of their soul and of their life. Children innately create, explore, and ask questions.  The Garden of Fire provides them with the opportunity to do this and so much more.  Students learn to look within, and begin to understand how creating art is one way that they can develop a stronger sense of wellness in their life.

A proud student poses next to his creation!
A proud student poses next to his creation!

At first glance, the role of CareFirst in the Garden of Fire program might seem like an unlikely fit.  How does a healthcare organization, especially one that serves dying patients and grieving families, work with children on art and science?  We are not here to talk to children about death.  We are here to fulfill our true mission by talking to them about life – how they can live their best life!   In our program this year we will be acknowledging that life isn’t always easy – that even in hard times, we can observe the world around us and be reminded of our own strengths.  In developing our lesson plans for the 2015 workshops we are focusing on how children can use their awareness of nature and creation of artwork as coping strategies; this will help them in dealing with life’s difficult situations in a healthy and productive way.

The plan is to start by encouraging children to practice mindfulness in an age-appropriate way – how to live in the present, to be aware of what is happening around them, and to pay attention to what they are experiencing at any given moment. What they are seeing, touching, feeling, etc. impacts the way they understand the world and therefore, the way they feel about any given situation. Having an acute awareness of their experience will transition into using symbols and metaphors as a way of understanding themselves and how they relate to others.   Using symbols is a way of helping all of us understand our place in the world.

CareFirst

How are we the same from the other people, animals, plants, and objects around us?
How are we different?
What is the meaning and symbolism of art materials?
How does that translate to the artwork itself?

For example, we are creating wind tunnels out of natural materials with artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley. Wind can be strong and intense, causing great destruction in the world. But, it can also be gentle and soothing, reminding us that we all can choose to live our life as a hurricane or a gentle breeze. Tree saplings can represent growth and new beginnings in our lives and vines are both durable and flexible, reminding us of the flexibility we need to cope with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives.

Thinking about this kind of symbolism helps children shape their understanding of themselves; this leaves them feeling stronger and more assured about who they are and who they want to be.  Additionally, it reminds them to find a balance between the intellect and the heart and uses both their understanding of art as well as the creative process to help them achieve success – “success that changes the way people feel about themselves and the world.”

Chelsea Ambrose
CareFirst

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