Expression through art

arttherapyhandsonlyIt is often advised, “Never give up certain for uncertain”.

Ignoring that warning, however, Kim Bryan gave up a permanent job as an Art Therapist in the United Kingdom and returned to Barbados. Loudly giggling, she related to Barbados TODAY that she did this because a similar job was awaiting her here via a local charity — and indeed it was.

Very excited, she grabbed the opportunity to return to Barbados to introduce this niche to islanders but also she was eager to be back home close to family and friends. Upon returning soon thereafter, to her disappointment, the charity folded and this single parent was left without an avenue to financially support herself and young daughter.

Though there are art therapists in other Caribbean countries now, it is believed she is the only one on the island.

What is art therapy? She explained it is a psychological therapy which used art as a form of communication, particularly, for people who tend to be non-verbal or have challenges articulating their feelings.

Since this community is so small, what the 37-year-old began to do when she became unemployed was to make links with people who knew about the benefits of it. As a result, the Ministry of Education then brought her on as a consultant to work with primary school-age children.

“We have a lot of children who just don’t know how to express themselves — that can be anger or any kind of emotion. We have bottled up kids who don’t know how to communicate,” she explained. “One of the benefits of arts is a lot of the time it is used with children who experience childhood trauma.

“When there is a lot of pre-verbal trauma it is very difficult for children, especially, to articulate what has happened to them or to understand the feelings that they are experiencing, but through art they’re able to communicate a lot of things which they are not able to verbalise.”

Before leaving the island to go abroad in 2001 to study for her undergraduate degree and later her masters in Creative Expressive Therapy, Bryan was a teacher at the Harrison College. It was there that she became interested in this field. While at the Crumpton Street, St. Michael school, she said, she would see drawings done by children which depicted images of violence and guns.

She recounted that children would sometimes come to her and ask questions mainly because they did not have an avenue where they could vent about “certain things”. It was then she decided she needed to help them in a more valuable way.

This Barbados Community College Fine Arts graduate made a decision to merge her love for art with her love for children and pursued CET, which integrated different aspects of the arts, including dance, music, drama, art. When she first wanted to pursue art, she said, she approached a Government agency enthusiastic about it being a great thing — “forward thinking” — but they said: “Art? No way”.

Having since helped children to open and gain self-confidence and esteem, many of these children who other had written off as too withdrawn in class and socially to be reached, she was of the opinion that this form of therapy works. More than 10 years after actualising her goal, she believed it is still not being given enough prominence, especially in Bajan schools.

“With things like ‘feelings journals’, we ask children to draw, write poems or write down how they feel. It has been really successful because a lot of times children say to me, ‘People don’t listen to them’, and they aren’t able to express themselves.

“A lot of children who get really angry quickly, sometimes it is something as simple as not being able to express the reasons why they have this anger. At times there are so many underlying things with people, especially children,” Bryan added.

“Because of the way our society works, we don’t have a lot of art in schools — some schools don’t have any art at all… but there should have more art in schools.

“People say art is painting and drawing but that is not all art is about. Art is about expressing yourself. If you watch a dancer, the art of dance is expressing something and if you watch a really good dance don’t you walk away from it feeling moved? It has an impact on you.

“I think that people need to realise that people put a lot of their heart and soul into things that they create and sometimes even being able to create something gives that child a feeling of self-esteem — a sense that ‘I am able to create something that has some kind of value’.

“If I didn’t love children I wouldn’t do this — it is not an easy job. Children have always been my passion, I think if you give children a correct start in life then it could help curb a lot of the problems we have later down the road. I think that is what is important, children need to be listened to.

“Some of the things that happen to children shouldn’t happen but if they do happen we need to be able to be there to pick up the pieces and give them that extra love and attachment they might not have that they need,” she stressed.

Bryan’s plans to establish her very own multi-disciplinary creative centre, offering interventions through dance, music, drama and art therapy.


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