“It’s your painting…it’s your art,” says Eric Gordan, an art teacher at Taylor County High School. “You are free to put on your board, on your canvas, whatever you want.”
The Pace Center brought the group of up-and-coming kids ages 11 to 17 together at the Booker T. Washington Center for a group session using art therapy called Paint & Sip. As they enjoy sparkling grape juice and light snacks, Eric gives eight young women some final advice before they start painting on their canvas. The advice on painting, however, could easily be applied to their lives, letting them know that the future was in their hands and anything is possible.
“Activities like these create a culture of camaraderie, which is very important because often times traumatized girls build a defensive wall where they stay to each other,” says Rebecca Richard, Reach program manager. “This creative therapy technique allows girls to be vulnerable: to try something new, with new people, in a safe and supportive environment.”
Through an MVP grant awarded to the Pace Center, Pace will expand its programs to reach more young people. They get $40,000 to hire an additional therapist to provide more group and individual services to promising young people.
“I don’t just help kids create awesome art…I use art to help create great kids,” is written in big, bold, colorful letters on Eric’s shirt, easily readable by young women as he walks around giving them advice on combining colours, which brushes to use and what might look good. Each time, he helps them find the best way to create their own image.
“If you could live anywhere, where would it be? »
Caribbean, Italy Germany
“If you could have one superpower, what would it be? »
Invisibility, teleport, read minds, stop time, time travel
“Are you ready for back to school? »
Each question triggers a discussion among the girls and with the adults about why they chose each answer. Where the room had previously been rather quiet, talking only about paint colors, the questions lead to laughter, back stories, and conversation. The room has lit up, and the young women are more and more comfortable in conversation.
They now discuss which colors they each use and why. They compliment each other on combinations and styles, then ask each other for advice on their own paintings. In no time, the combination of painting, snacking, and conversation had them close and comfortable opening up to each other.
“Only a few of these girls knew each other before this activity,” adds Rebecca. “When these girls return to school in August, they will be able to recognize and have had a positive experience with at least one more person in their community.”
About the Pace Center for Girls
Paint & Sip is part of a month-long program for young women to help them improve their self-efficacy and protective factors, learn more about themselves, connect and learn from peers who have had similar life experiences. Other program activities include developing a vision board, goal-setting activities, and decision-making discussions.
Pace offers girls and young women an opportunity to have a better future through education, counselling, training and advocacy. Pace values all girls and young women, believing that everyone deserves an opportunity to find their voice, fulfill their potential, and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity, and grace. Pace believes in a world where all girls and young women have POWER, in a FAIR and EQUITABLE society. Since 2020, Pace has provided individual and group therapy to 56 MBC girls.
Pace’s Reach Program services provide social, emotional, behavioral and mental health counseling to girls ages 11-17 and their families. We offer supportive therapy specifically designed for middle and high school girls in a variety of convenient, easy-to-access locations, including at home, at school, in the community, or online.
About the Macon Violence Prevention Grants
More than $800,000 is given to 25 nonprofit and faith-based organizations to establish programs and efforts to reduce violent crime; every goal they try to achieve has been achieved by nearly 2,000 people through forums and surveys about the needs of our neighborhoods. These results are described in the MVP Strategic Planand the full list of organizations and programs can be found by click here. The organizations were selected through an application and review process conducted by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia.
“The solution to violent crime in our community will be that we all work together as one team,” said Mayor Lester Miller. “Having more than 50 organizations come forward with great ideas and apply for MVP grants shows that people in our community are committed to this historic effort. If we continue to work together, we will create a safer and stronger community now and for future generations.
Macon Violence Prevention is a multi-faceted, evidence-based program created to ensure public safety in Macon-Bibb County. Supported and funded by the Consolidated Government, MVP is a community effort that brings together elected officials, community leaders, agencies, organizations and departments.
The MVP Program operates under the guidance of the MVP Strategic Plan, which was introduced in June 2021. Created by community stakeholders and violent crime experts, this strategic plan combines data and research with community feedback to put in place implements proven solutions that reduce violent crime and build community over time.