The Arts Response to the Personal Story
We make Art in order not to die from the truth. Nietzsche
Expressive Arts have always been a focus of our work, we now give them their own place in recognition that working with art materials extends language in ways different, often better and more appropriate than writing or telling.
Using narrative arts processes, transcend cultural differences and spoken language to bring us together no matter our differences. Using arts materials will ground the artist in the body and empower her/him through the skills s/he develops and can use in those tough spots encountered in the day to day.
Access to arts processes and materials and using them over time can strengthen the part of the brain/nervous system that provides calming hormones. It is this part of the brain that has been silenced/weakened by the flight or fight hormones of survival with which the trauma survivor lives. Then, finding the calm place can only come through drugs, alcohol and high risk behaviors. Our goal at Ashlar is to resolve toxic stress symptoms and provide a Self-Care program that strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, with many clients achieving dramatic reduction of symptoms.
We use whichever materials allow maximum expression for the artist/ story teller in developing the personal narrative. We have the equipment to create tiles, but you can use any number of materials; feathers and paint, yarn and sticks, mask making materials, beads and bone, glue and goo, clay, found objects and those things that are hammered, chewed, tossed and shaped by hand and baked, found, made, cycled and recycled.
We work with artists who are educators and trainers in all matters of traumatic stress, to help you wrap and bead a talking stick, or create in images and words a pillar, or a mural to give concrete expression to your life. These objects work hard -- they are not just a decorative -- though they are that too. We teach how to use the art object for further healing beyond just working on the piece which gives a certain amount of resolution but the process to further healing lies beyond the art process itself.
We deal with themes of Redemption, Reclamation and Memorializing. Our work with Spirit Houses offer a place for restless spirits to dwell -- those whose lives were cut short, those who died as a result of a military act or states of being a student has lost: innocence, trust, discovery of ones dark potential. the list goes on and there is a great need for thus resolution work.. We use cross-cultural rituals for peace-making in the individual and for the community.
Jim Famolero, Ashlar's Veterans Program Director, is currently working on a personal and community memorial project. His pillar is called The Healing Pillar of Wham, Bam, Pow and illustrates the story of his war experiences in Afghanistan. Just about any material goes on Jim's pillar and begins with his handmade tiles.
Our fundamental piece for trauma resolution is the Life Line which does the heavy lifting for the process. We can do it in words alone but prefer using arts processes as a less ephemeral representation of a life. The Life Line when complete is the story of our student's life one they will create themselves. Arts materials are threaded on a thong -- stones, feathers, yarn, bullets and beads, fetishes and fringes and things students may bring themselves. These materials come in a small bag. Every one is different.
We would like to make this Life Line work available in our communities to anyone who wants to create one.
We are available to teach classes for those interested in becoming narrative arts facilitators who will teach about the role of unresolved traumatic stress in our individuals, families and communities, and how to use the Life Line work to resolve or greatly diminish symptoms of traumatic stress.