Each year, CFA’s Department of Marital and Family Therapy hosts the Summer Arts Workshop (SAW), which is part of a complement of community-based arts endeavors that the Department has developed. The goal of this program, and others, is to enter impoverished communities, including the community of Boyle Heights, to provide services to students residing in a low-income and at risk community of East Los Angeles. The program is led by co-directors Jessica Bianchi and Amber Cromwell. Five graduate assistants from the department of Marital and Family Therapy and two undergraduate are employed to mentor and collaborate to come together to decide upon the theme which always includes themes of community and social justice.
This year’s project was entitled, “Cultural Threads,” with an overarching theme of the exploration and celebration of the creative self. The young participants began this journey with a night of art making at Dolores Mission School. Students were asked to use the art process and collaboration to identify what creativity means to them and how it can be found in unexpected places. Artists were then invited to LMU for a week of art-making to explore creative expression of self through a layered project that asked to artists to deepen their understanding of themselves.
The project asked the students to represent their “Cultural Threads” in order to create and exhibit wearable art. The artists were encouraged to think about how they represent themselves with clothing but in an exaggerated and artistic way using fine art materials. Each day provided layers of meaning. Day One, the students identified a base color – a representation of the core self. They added a layer each day of the workshop to include representations of relationships, environment, and how the community has been an impact of their identity. The students themselves became the canvas, and the end of the week culminated in an exhibit where the students modeled their garments in a living sculpture garden in the George A.V. Dunning Courtyard of the Burns Fine Arts Center. The workshop then culminated with an event back in the community of Dolores Mission Parish, where the students were asked to share the skills and concepts they learned. SAW starts in the community, continues for participants at LMU, and bridges back through mentorship and a sharing of observations using the creative process.