Just Dreaming by Abraham Mojica. Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.
Just Dreaming by Abraham Mojica. Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.

Art, music, and poetry will take center stage at the Ecumenical Centers fourth annual Art Heals Hearts: The Power of Expression exhibition, which will feature a free public event from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9 at the center, located at 8310 Ewing Halsell Dr.

Renowned artists Franco Mondini Ruiz, Lionel Sosa, and Brother Cletus Behlmann are among the artists whose work will be on display and for sale. The event will include poetry readings, experiential drum circles, live music, and more throughout the evening.

"St. Joseph's Parish" (St. Joskes) by Rex Hausmann. Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.
“St. Joseph’s Parish” (St. Joskes) by Rex Hausmann. Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.

The first Art Heals Hearts exhibit evolved from a conversation between Ecumenical Center CEO and Executive Director Mary Beth Fisk and Vicki Williams Patterson, the licensed art therapist on the center’s staff. Their vision was to create free, open studio art sessions where people could create art in a peaceful environment without any pressure to talk to a therapist about their issues. Simply put, the idea was to let the art and the process do the healing.

The sessions became so popular – growing from three sessions the first year to monthly sessions the following year – that the exhibit was a logical next step. Approximately 250 people attended the first exhibit.

“It was an incredible celebration of the healing power of the arts,” said Fisk, noting that last year’s attendance numbered more than 600 people.

With the success of the exhibits and an ever-growing therapeutic arts staff, members, and programming, the center is once again taking that next logical step – the founding of the Therapeutic Expressive Arts Institute of South Texas (TEAIST).

“More space was needed and more people came to take advantage of the healing offered through the expressive therapeutic arts,” said Fisk, who has more than 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. “With the generosity of local funders, plans are underway to build a facility dedicated to The Expressive Therapeutic Arts Institute, which will house the therapeutic arts counseling, wellness classes, art supplies, and musical instruments used for music therapy.”

TEAIST already offers training and helps continue education for professional counselors with ongoing programs such as Open Studio Visual Art Sessions, Poetry Writing Circles, and Therapeutic Drum Circles. The institute will soon add drama and movement.

Expressive Arts Therapy is used by the licensed, professional counseling staff as a means to assist clients as they work through their emotions. TEAIST has dedicated staff and space at The Ecumenical Center, with a building addition planned for 2017. As the program continues to grow, the center will create new positions.

Since 1967, the nonprofit Ecumenical Center has provided counseling for children, adults, and families, as well as community-based education programs, training for clergy, religious workers, and healthcare professionals.

“Emotional expression, through art, words, music, movement, or drama, provides a tremendously powerful outlet to help people work through and process difficult situations in their lives,” Fisk said. “Expressive arts can help people ease emotional pain, create a sense of self, and a build sense of empowerment.

Four Landscapes by Raul Gonzalez. Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.
“Four Landscapes” by Raul Gonzalez.  Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.

“We are delighted to launch an institute specifically focused on Therapeutic Expressive Arts. We welcome the public to come learn more about the institute and explore the healing journeys of artists and others who will have works on display in our Art Heals Hearts exhibition.”

RSVPs are not required for the Friday event. After the reception, the exhibit will be open for public viewing through Jan. 7, 2017. Guided tours require reservations in advance. For more information or to schedule a tour, call the center at 210-616-0885.


Top image: Just Dreaming by Abraham Mojica.  Image courtesy of the Ecumenical Center.

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Annette Crawford is an Air Force veteran and has spent more than 30 years as a writer, editor, and public affairs officer. She is the house photographer at Sam’s Burger Joint & Music Hall.