At the end of a hall in the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, a small table was laid out with three-inch square sheets of brightly colored paper, wire, and scissors. As curious individuals walked by, we offered them the opportunity to work on an art project while they waited for legal counsel.
Some people were not sure what to make of being invited to do an art project while they were waiting to be seen, but others jumped right in. Soon many people were creating vibrant paper flowers and sharing stories from their lives.
Some shared the circumstances that had led them to El Paso and how they longed to be with loved ones once again. One family shared how they had once made hundreds of paper flowers for their daughter’s quinceanera. No matter what happened with their meetings, they were able to leave that day with a bright memory of creating something beautiful.
This project was a part of our community art project, which was created when staff at Ciudad Nueva saw a need to provide an outlet for community members affected by our country’s current immigration policy, hateful speech, and behavior directed towards immigrants. The hope was to provide some stress relief and help people process their feelings and emotions.
Art for healing
“The goal of the program is to provide enrichment, an opportunity for people to express themselves creatively, and build community in our neighborhood through stronger personal relationships,” says Claudia Chavez, Legal Assistance Program Coordinator for Ciudad Nueva.
The art program started at our center and has expanded into the community. There are currently three groups involved with the art program, and each has projects that cater to their specific needs.
Our elementary-aged children are creating art projects that help them connect what they are learning at the LaunchPad program to their everyday lives. In one recent project, the kids drew themselves as superheroes fighting off the negative forces in their lives, helping them identify how they have the power to change their lives for good. This helps them cultivate another layer of understanding and self-expression.
Our co-op community created custom tiles to decorate the co-op room, which now proudly cover the length of the room. The community also made paper flowers for our Quinceanera Celebration and is now working on ceramic projects.
Individuals involved in our art projects say that for them, using their creative skills is very therapeutic and helps them work through their personal narratives. Art therapy can be incredibly helpful for people to express themselves better and build community.
Impacting lives through art
At the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, our art projects provide enrichment and a creative outlet for individuals in often stressful situations. Any personal waiting for legal counsel can come and make an art project with our staff.
In December, we offered the opportunity to create three-dimensional paper poinsettias. The response from this project was overwhelmingly positive and brought joy to many people’s lives. One woman, after making a poinsettia for her altar for Our Lady of Guadelupe, was so proud of herself that she got up and showed the receptionist her creation.
This is only the beginning of our community art projects. We’re looking forward to expanding this project to our high school program and seeing how the students channel their creativity through artwork.
Ciudad Nueva is a community-based nonprofit that exists to advance the renewal and development of central El Paso’s Rio Grande neighborhood through the empowerment and transformation of its residents. Please join us this year! Call us today at 915-521-2951 or contact us online.