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ACAC Launches Healing Arts Program

The Adams County Arts Council (ACAC) has successfully completed its first two sessions of a new Healing Arts Program; an eight-week curriculum designed to facilitate social connections and teach healthy coping mechanisms for stress reduction through practice of a variety of arts mediums. Board certified music therapist, Amy Kalas Buser, MM, MT-BC, facilitated a program for the autism support classroom at Biglerville High School. Board certified art therapist, David Mitchell, MA, ATR-BC, LPAT, facilitated a women’s group at the ACAC’s Arts Education Center. Students in both groups were visited by a different guest artist each week. Guest artists engaged students in painting, weaving, yoga, creative writing, drum circles, instrument improvisation, and theatre exercises. The women’s group concluded with a culinary arts class and celebratory meal.

The Healing Arts Program was well received by students and teachers alike. “I thought the Healing Arts Program was amazing and perfect,” said BHS student Leah Watson. “It was calming and fun. I loved it.” “We are thrilled with how the program is taking off,” said ACAC Executive Director Lisa Cadigan. “We have been contacted by area schools to facilitate professional development sessions for their teachers and staff to give them a sampling of the program, so they can bring it into their classrooms or consider teambuilding sessions for themselves. This is a program that can benefit everyone.” 

Each arts experience is tied to a larger social emotional goal based on the needs of students in the group. For example, BHS students spent the first two weeks working on social communication skills through writing raps, building empathy through lyric analysis of songs, and developing group cohesion by creating a painting project together. The Women’s Group opened each week’s session with a meditation and centering exercise and group discussion before beginning an art project to address themes including “Surviving and Thriving,” “Growth Through Adversity,” and “Finding your Community of Support.”

The program is funded by the Community Development Block Grant and the Anne and Philip Glatfelter III Family Foundation. Plans are underway for new groups to start eight-week sessions this fall. If you are interested in participating in the Healing Arts program, or if you know of a group that would benefit from an eight-week session, please contact Kylie Stone, Outreach and Events Coordinator, Adams County Arts Council.

Featured Image: Facilitated by music therapist Amy Kalas-Buser and painting instructor Fabio Carella, Biglerville High School students in the autism support classroom rotated around their classroom to contribute to group paintings while listening to music, fostering collaboration and teambuilding during their first week of Healing Arts.

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