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“It ignites their spirit and gives them hope.”

February 28th, 2017

This YWCA Toronto program offers healing through art and creativity.

Drawing by YWCA Breakthrough Program participant L.Y.

Each year nearly 300 local organizations participate in the AGO’s free community membership program and one of those groups, YWCA Toronto’s Breakthrough Program, has shown the restorative power of art and its ability to change lives. The innovative Healing Through Expressive Arts Program helps women who have experienced abuse or other kinds of violence through 12-week workshops creating art, movement, poetry, and music.

Participants are encouraged to find inspiration for their creativity in many ways, including visiting and exploring the AGO. “Our participants are so excited to be able to visit the AGO,” says Breakthrough Program worker Carol Barrett, who is an Expressive Arts Therapist. “Many of them have experienced scarcity and poverty. The free membership gives them the opportunity to be surrounded by beauty and connect with a wider community… it ignites their creative spirit and gives them hope.”

This past year, eight participants in Healing Through Expressive Arts developed a series of 40 art cards, featuring paintings and sketches created during their art-making sessions at YWCA Toronto. The initiative behind the cards began a few years ago when one of the program participants suggested that it would be helpful to share their experiences and artworks with others. Now, more than 300 cards are printed each year and passed along to people who might be in a vulnerable place.

Painting, Beauty, by YWCA Breakthrough Program participant Metamorphosis.

“Women who experience violence often lose their voice,” says Barrett. “The process of art making gives them a way to transform those experiences and re-connect with themselves. By the end of the program they find a bigger voice, and rediscover a sense of who they truly are.”

Do you know a local non-profit that might benefit from the AGO’s community access program? Find more details here or send us a note. You can also learn more about the YWCA’s Breakthrough Program here.

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