Powerful Art – Powerful Healing

By Jessica Robinson, WLP Project Director

On August 4, 2023, The Women’s Leadership Project sponsored an Art Institute, OUR ART, OUR HEALING, OUR POWER, at the Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City, CA. High School and Middle School students from Los Angeles joined in a safe space to explore Art as a tool for healing, empowerment, and fun.

Approximately fifteen students began the day with an outside breakfast and an affirmation Ice Breaker, where each participant shared a personal affirmation. WLP member and Hamilton High School student Jasmine Hutchinson Kelley shared, “I have the courage to be vulnerable in my artistic expression.” Other affirmations included, “I deserve safety, peace, and abundance” and “I am worthy of all the love I receive.” Breakfast was followed by a Yoga session under the Nature Center trees, led by the Yoga Tree co-op.

The Institute was enthusiastically led and facilitated by WLP student interns Kimberly Ortiz, a sophomore at Cal State LA, and Lizette Nsilu, a freshman at El Camino College. 

Hip hop artist and African American Studies professor IFe JIe was the first guest artist and presenter. She began her presentation with an original rap performance. The presentation titled #RealBlackGirls Women in Hip Hop detailed the history of Black women Hip Hop artists who embraced their power in the male-dominated Hip Hop world. IFe JIe ended her presentation with the audience participating in a dance circle.

Jai Ferrell is a therapist and representative from Grow Ur Potential, an organization committed to ethical mental health support for youth and families; they work with community organizers and award financial scholarships for strength-based, culturally responsive mental health resourcing. Jai discussed how visual art-making can be used to free tension and aid in mental health. During a break-out session, Jai allowed students to create a painting on a canvas, using different colors to express emotions. 

After a catered lunch,  Donnie Hue Frazier, actor, activist, and filmmaker,  led a powerful discussion titled “Our Stories Have the Power to Heal.” Donnie shared how screenwriting and producing his original work is therapeutic for him and, at the same time, inspires others. Students gave examples of stories and films that inspired them. They were encouraged to tell stories in multiple formats, such as filmmaking, writing, and visual and performing arts.

Before dismissal, Jeremy T. Mitchell, also known as Jet Finley, showcased his talents with a Vogue history and dance class. Students, Interns, Chaperons, and presenters participated in the live voguing class. The class culminated with a Vogue Battle, where a WLP member Bri, was awarded $100 for the win! 

All youth attendees received a book,  gift card, and other giveaways. Participants were also able to take home their written and visual artwork,