Julie Steiger (left) and Callie Wight are two of the facilitators for the “Finding Your Silver Lining” art therapy workshop on Saturday, April 22. The project will use art therapy to help attendees release negative attachments.
Photo by Marshall Smith

The Phoenix Alliance presents a participatory art experience to help attendees release attachment to an embedded painful memory or experience. It is held this month in support of sexual-assault awareness month. Organizers stress that the event is for all ages.

Facilitated by Callie Wight, registered nurse and Master of Arts in human development and psychology, Julie Steiger, Master of Science in social work and Bachelor of Science in psychology, and art therapist Karla Leopold, with support from Rev. Shelly Downes and Mary Morse, executive director of Spirit Mountain Retreat, the art therapy workshop is designed to help release deeply held trauma — to use art to get it out of the body and onto paper that will then be ceremonially shredded.

Art therapist Leopold’s career mission has been to use art as a cathartic process to heal others. She has helped guide many suffering from life-altering losses to work though their loss using art as the healing agent.

In the fall of 2005, Rosie O’Donnell’s foundation “For All Kids” asked Leopold to lead a team of California therapists to work in an evacuation camp in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with children traumatized by Hurricane Katrina. O’Donnell’s foundation fully funded the team’s work.

Those attending the “Finding Your Silver Lining” workshop will be offered the opportunity, with support from the facilitators, to write or draw on paper an attachment they would like to release. Participants then walk with their paper to a shredder and while shredding the paper, they visualize their attachment dissolving. Leopold references Joseph Campbell who stated, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

After that, as a doorway to embracing a life without negative attachments, workshop participants create a piece of art that represents the feelings, sensations or visions of letting go of what does not serve them and being open to a “silver lining” of personal happiness and fulfillment.

“Trauma does not have to define you for the rest of your life,” said Wight, whose career focused on counseling women veterans suffering from sexual trauma.

“The process we’ll use at the workshop symbolizes renewal and rebirth — a new beginning,” said Steiger, whose background is in counseling and leading therapy groups.

Artwork created will be displayed at the workshop site with permission of participants, and subsequently at the Idyllwild Library. There has been discussion of using some or all of the workshop-created art in specially made quilts — much like the iconic AIDS Memorial Quilt, The Names Project.

The art created is primarily a process for releasing trauma. As Leopold notes, participants should leave their “art critic” somewhere else. “There is no right or wrong,” she said. “This creation is yours and yours alone.”

Wight notes that trauma, especially trauma associated with sexual assault, crosses all genders, age groups and socio-economic bases. “Sexual assault happens to women, men, boys, girls and elders,” said Wight. “It is not about sex, it is about power and domination over another.”

Wight and Steiger stressed that their organization, the Phoenix Alliance, is about moving forward from gender-based violence to structuring healthy relationships and healthy communication. “Love is never abusive,” said Wight.

The Phoenix Alliance is the successor to The Mountain Community Alliance Against Gender Violence.

“Finding Your Silver Lining” will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the gazebo adjacent to Higher Ground Coffee Shop. Refreshments and all art materials will be provided.

All are welcome and there is no cost to attend.