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Art program finds its heart
we care pic
Melissa Akin sketches a rose in bloom during a session of We Care's Homeless Engaged in Art program. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD / The Journal

Melissa Akin describes the time she spent in her garden as a respite from the rest of the world and she remembers taking a certain amount of pride in seeing it spring into a harvest of vegetables and bouquets of flowers.

When Akin lost her place of residence, she also lost that sense of tranquility, as she now has to focus most of her energy on surmounting the daily struggles that come with life on the streets.

But, thanks to a new program from We Care, Akin is once again claiming small moments of peace and is nourishing a fertile field, except this time the land she tends comes to life when pencil meets sketch pad.

“I can’t garden like I used to, but now I am getting it in another way,” Akin said as she sketched a rose in bloom.

Akin is one of the first individuals to join in on We Care’s new outreach program, Homeless Engaged in Art or HEART.  The program is designed to function as an art therapy outlet for the homeless community and was started by Barbara Olave, We Care’s interim director.

“The goals of the program are two-fold,” Olave said. “First, art is very therapeutic with many positive benefits in socialization, coping skills and self-expression. It’s also an opportunity for them to step outside of their day and have a chance to relax in a safe environment. The second goal is to have an art show later on and showcase the talent that we have here.”

Olave is leading the informal sessions, along with her 17-year-old son Dakota Olave, who is an aspiring art instructor. Attendees are given art materials to use and have free range to follow their artistic expressions.

“We let them draw their own things, because you can’t be wrong when you draw,” said Dakota Olave.

The sessions are set from 10 a.m. to noon on the first and third Tuesdays of each month in the shelter dining room at 213 S. Broadway. There is no cost for the participants.

Because the program is still in its early stages, it is looking for both new participants and material donations.

“I know there is a lot of talent here,” Barbara Olave said. “I hope it has a chance to grow because I really believe in it.”

To donate art supplies call Barbara Olave at 664-2003 or email