PRESENT

“Our country in general and St. Louis in particular is facing a major crisis in childhood mental health. This problem is compounded by divides along socio-cultural and racial lines with the highest risk children being at greatest risk of being lost.  By focusing her art and efforts on children in the St. Louis City Family Court system along with their juvenile officers, Adrienne Outlaw is providing a much needed effort to heal our local community.  Her work is greatly appreciated and to be applauded as she unites several key sectors of the St. Louis community to draw attention to and to improve the outcomes of these children.” 

— Charles Zorumski, “Samuel B. Guze Professor and Head of Psychiatry at Washington University

PRESENT is socially engaged artwork designed to promote emotional well-being through the creation and donation of mindfully made art. Open to anyone and serving at its core the youth and juvenile officers in the St. Louis City Family Court, the weekly workshops begin with yoga, proceed with mindful artmaking and conclude with shared reflection. At the conclusion of each round of workshops, participants share their drawings at select distribution sites throughout St. Louis in the form of free postcards. The PRESENT pilot received full funding from the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement and significant assistance from Washington University Department of Psychiatry, St. Louis City Family Court and First Congregational Church.

LETTERS OF SUPPORT

I think the program is having a significant impact on our students, the children participants and their deputy juvenile officers. Specifically, for our students, I think this experience provides them with an opportunity to meet and learn with and from people who likely have had a significantly different experience than they have had growing up or than they are experiencing now. This helps teach them to remember that their patients are individuals with diverse and often unexpressed backgrounds. And yet, they are having this shared experience. I imagine the same is true for the kids and the officers, who have this opportunity to learn about both similarities and differences in their humanness. Overall, I believe such experiences teach people to be more respectful and kind, more open and responsive to others. When we get to know others, we see them as people, not as whatever label or stereotype we have given them.” — Eva Aagaard, MD Senior Associate Dean for Education at Washington University

“I walked in this past Wednesday highly frustrated from the morning.  The yoga was so relaxing and enjoyable that I felt good afterwards and was able to enjoy the kids and activities.  One of the kids I brought had a very stressful morning. He didn’t want to come and his mom made him. It was a very rough start to the day.  He repeatedly tried to get out of the car – was upset and crying. I knew the yoga and art would help reduce his stress. He and his cousin both attend the yoga and art program.  They’ve lived a life of being in transition and are currently in a shelter. The stress-free fun is needed.” –– Joli Baker, MSW, LCSW, Truancy Initiative Supervisor at the Family Court – Juvenile Division

“I have greatly enjoyed the PRESENT art project. I have enjoyed seeing the creativity of the kids come out during the projects.” — Deborah K. Crump-Doyle, DJO Deputy Juvenile Officer, Truancy Unit, Family Court-Juvenile Division

“Students have mentioned about how curious they are to return to the camp and walk into the room and see the different materials you can use for art they’ve never experienced before.” — SHER NICHOLSON, Yoga Instructor

“Everyone has been given a chance to decompress. They are also getting exposed to others outside of the people they normally work with. I think that this have given the kids a chance just to sit and do activities normally they wouldn’t (ie too many video games/activities).  It also gives them a chance during yoga to be relaxed and focus on one thing during the moment they are in. This type of environment gives a person [opportunities] to try something new if they choose.” — DAVID VIERZBA, DJO, Deputy Juvenile Officer, Truancy Unit, Family Court-Juvenile Division

“PRESENT is a unique program that allows children to explore their own imagination through meditation and creativity. The youth learn how to practice self care while creating projects they are proud of alongside members of the community and their deputy juvenile officers, creating an atmosphere of safety and respect.” — Tasha Evanoff, M.D. Candidate, Washington University School of Medicine

“I have participated in 3 workshops so far, and they have been fantastic! At the 1st workshop, the kids at my table ( 4 boys & 1 girl, ages 7-12) were a little shy about what to draw. They asked questions to make sure they were doing it “right”. I smiled and said there was no “right way”, they could do anything they wanted to do – and I then closed my eyes and drew! The kids were so curious about how I could draw with my eyes closed – it was a great “ice-breaker”. After that, the kids were very creative, and most were very prolific artists. After about 30 minutes, we each took a turn holding up one of our pictures and having everyone tell us what they saw in the picture.   I was amazed at how insightful and creative the kids were! Another highlight was watching (and helping) the kids make evergreen bouquets to take home. The next workshop involved sand and stones. This time the kids (4 girls, ages 10-12) at my table were not tentative at all – they jumped right in and made sand-and-stone sculptures, then started drawing.  Again, I was impressed with how creative the kids were, and how happy, focused, and relaxed everyone was doing art. After drawing, everyone painted the rocks – what a blast! The 3rd workshop used stones again, since they were such a big hit. This time I had 3 boys and a deputy juvenile officer at my table, and it was great seeing and participating in the artistic interchange between everyone! This time we started by holding up one of our favorite drawing from the 3 workshops, and having each person at our table tell us what they saw. Again, I was amazed at how insightful, confident, and creative the kids were with their critiques! Also, I think it’s a fantastic idea to start off each workshop doing yoga, using a sound track the kids (and adults) really enjoyed.  It has been amazing, and so much fun, to watch the kids and deputy juvenile officers learn to trust what their bodies can do, to relax and listen to what is going on both “inside” and “outside” of themselves.  Yoga really helped set the stage for doing art! Overall I think this is a great program, with huge benefits for everyone involved!” — Deborah Dobson, Research Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University