LIFE Center Stage through their community outreach program, Bridging Realities has partnered with the Dover Public Library to offer Youth Leadership through Artistry programs, a stigma-free initiative offering a hands on approach through the arts that encourages young adults to develop an awareness of themselves and their community, inciting a sense of purpose, creativity, collaboration and accountability. Through these creative expression programs, young adults are given the opportunity to find their voice and to come together to improve their community and themselves in sober, fun-filled, uplifting and inspiring ways.
The first stage of this partnership started in early September with the You Choose: Drugs or Living Mural program funded through Family Intervention Services and their Mending Arts program. Professional visual artist, Ellen Avigliano of Imaginarium Creative Studios and art therapist, Cindy Hamilton met with the youth for 12 sessions over the course of six weeks. Participants included Alicia A., Genesis, Miles, Matteo, Alicia, Joey, Lia and Coraline D. and ranging in age from 6 to 16 years old.
During the mural project, the students learned to express their emotions and thoughts in healthy, positive and creative ways. They discovered a strong sense of connection to their community, and created an empowering mural in a positive sober environment. Students used paint, marker and traditional art materials to create an inspirational mural that combines geometric graffiti with a pop-art influence.
The You Choose: Drugs or Living Mural was created to inspire and empower others by showing the multifaceted layers of the young adults, their lives and their future. The bottom layer of the mural represents the struggles, bad influences and negative peer pressure that they have experienced. To represent these undesirable societal conditions students incorporated evil literary and theatrical characters into the mural.
The middle layer of the mural embodies what is important to the young adults, what helps them to rise above negativity and to keep them focused and driven towards positive choices for their future.
The top layer is intentionally abstract to symbolize that nothing is concrete or defined; the future is open to unlimited possibilities as these young adults grow into their true selves.
The mural weaves in positive messages of drug prevention, encouragement and inspiration for anyone who needs a reminder, like “Hugs not Drugs”, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” Dr. Seuss.
Over the last two years, there has been four drug overdoses in the Dover Public restroom, to help combat this epidemic, the mural is being hung over the rest rooms to serve as a reminder of the good in life and the choices we can make to materialize a positive and healthy future.
On December 3, 2017, the young adults along with FIS, LCS and the Dover Free Public Library organized an afternoon event of art, music, speakers and a celebration of their accomplishment.
The unveiling was sponsored by the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris. Those who attended heard from the young adults, along with Diane Sebastion, Director of the Dover Free Public Library and Vicky Mulligan, CEO of LIFE Center Stage. Personal recovery stories and performances by Anna Toby, Anna Zibit (winners of Knock Out Opioid Abuse Anthem Contest) and Alexis Von Aulock ended the afternoon program bringing hope and inspiration to all who attended.