Touching hearts with art

2016-08-16 10:59
The Heart for Art programme has now extended its classes to 10 per week and serves over 170 beneficiaries.

The Heart for Art programme has now extended its classes to 10 per week and serves over 170 beneficiaries.

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“I sometimes still feel scared here in Vrygrond. Sometimes, like on Guy Fawkes Day, it is dangerous to be out. But art class taught me not to be scared.”

These are the words of 14-year-old Vrygrond resident Akiem. He has seen his life transformed through art classes offered by the Butterfly Art Project at his school, Capricorn Primary, which he has attended for the last two years.

The project’s daily after-school programme, Heart for Art, not only offers art to a large group of children from the school but also to other members of the community.

The Butterfly Art Project was started by German art therapist Angela Katshke, after she visited South Africa “and experienced the huge openness for healing through art in disadvantaged communities”.

Katshke then started running art sessions with preschools around Vrygrond from the back of her car. It was a few years later that Katshke decided to fundraise for a building.

The programme makes use of the art skills and talents of the project’s staff and volunteers to offer quality art classes. Each class has a curriculum with activities and goals for each lesson, explains art outreach manager Zaid Philander.

A monitoring tool has been developed to evaluate the goals, the artistic process and the behaviour of each child. The program provides a platform for support groups where each child can experience a sense of belonging.

“There are several success stories such as pupils who are remedial children (who find it impossible to learn in a classroom environment) who then develop better learning skills through the art and art therapy we offer them,” Philander says.

“We are providing not just art, but a safe haven for the kids to feel that they can freely express themselves. It is a place for them to share their views and a place for them to create and feel empowered. The Capricorn children often find themselves in vulnerable situations (and we provide) the opportunity to know of a bigger world out there. This is a difference to the unstable environment that they get to know on a daily basis.”

But their project doesn’t only work with children, Philander says. The project’s Community Art Facilitator programme trains adults from different areas to enable them to teach art in their own communities.

And they have big dreams to improve the lives of locals.

“We are planning to develop a sustainable Art Centre that would eventually thrive on its own through the hands of the people of Vrygrond. Each employee will be locally employed and run the particular departments for the greater good of Capricorn. Locals would be able to access creative outlets for them and also develop entrepreneurial thinking,” Philander explains.

The Heart for Art programme has now extended its classes to 10 per week and serves over 170 beneficiaries, Philander says.

Akiem is one of these beneficiaries. Moving to Vrygrond to live with his mother at the age of nine after the death of his father, Akiem struggled to process his emotions. Both his mother and grandmother work to support the family and keep up with bills, and Akiem found himself drawn into petty crime.

He then started in 2014 with the Butterfly Art Project and started processing his emotions in a more positive way. Through art Akiem began changing his negative outlook and became calmer in class.

“I love learning new art skills and graffiti. My favourite project was the photo project,” he says.

During the project, his teacher took profile images of all the children and gave them the opportunity to share their place of peace in their community.

Akiem chose to take an image of the park in his community where he felt happiest with.

“My picture from the photo project was sold for R500 and I still haven’t spent the money yet. I am keeping it for one day when my mother needs it for something important. One day I want to be an artist and travel the world. I think art will give me the chance to travel,” he says.

The Butterfly Art Project’s AGM will take place on Thursday 25 August at 17:00, at Capricorn Primary, 115 Vrygrond Avenue. For more information, contact hazel@butterflyartproject.org or 072 190 2149.

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