Stitching the Fabric of Community with Movement and Art

Stitching the Fabric of Community with Movement and Art is a collaboration between myself and FrontLine Service that took place between May 2019 and March 2020 at a permanent supportive housing site that provides housing and on-site support services for adults who are homeless and have severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders. We held weekly, 2 hour, trauma-informed workshops that included chair yoga, mindfulness techniques, and creative movement activities for the first hour of the class, then moved to visual art expression for the second hour.

This workshop model was created from the shared impulse to empower participants in their ability to activate a sense of calm within themselves as well as highlight each participant’s artistic voice. We aimed to provide an environment that allowed us to explore what happens to creativity after we gave ourselves time to ease daily, or sometimes traumatic, stress.

These workshops also intended to create a community for participants interested in these activities.

For the visual art portion of the workshop, participants chose their medium of expression between crochet/fabric/yarn art, collage, and drawing. I offered the question “What does community look/feel like to you?” as a prompt that participants could use for inspiration. It was not required that participants respond to the prompt, and some chose to create art on a different theme. Over the course of the workshops most participants gravitated towards collage and we created a gallery show of over 20 works of art.

To wrap up this workshop series, we planned an art opening where each participant would receive a certificate of participation as well public recognition of their accomplishment. We also created a model of the building as centerpiece for the event. The windows of the building are artworks created by participants.

This partnership was made possible by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and the Center for Performance and Civic Practice’s (CPCP) Learning Lab, a professional development program for artists and nonprofit organizations rooted in civic, social, public, and placemaking practices.

FrontLine Service is committed to seeking out and serving those in the community who are the most vulnerable: children traumatized by violence, individuals who are homeless, and those who are struggling with a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, serving them with empathy and commitment to their dignity and intrinsic worth. Last year the agency served over 23,000 individuals, helping them overcome the barriers and severe challenges in their lives.

I will continue my partnership with FrontLine Service throughout 2020 by offering yoga, mindfulness and creative movement classes in other housing units they serve.

Photo Credit: Elisha Cerino