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Chelsea Group Uses Creative Expression To Help Heal Trauma

Jennie Harriman
Dancing at SafeArt in Chelsea.

An organization called SafeArt in Chelsea is on a mission to heal. Through performances, individual work and group classes, SafeArt offers up creative expression for all age groups as a means to heal and even prevent trauma and abuse.

VPR spoke recently with SafeArt executive director Bridgett Taylor about the organization's mission and its community outreach.

Taylor said when founding director Tracy Penfield began SafeArt in 2000, she did it as a means to help young people.

As an artist and survivor of trauma herself, Taylor said the organization's founder knew the role art played as "a tool of healing for her — finding her voice, finding confidence again in her body — and she wanted to help young people heal the same way."

Since its inception, the staff members at SafeArt have used what Penfield learned on her own path to healing. "And we've also learned that these principles that Tracy had felt so instinctively are also based on very sound science," Taylor said. "Creativity, creative movement, those all charge up different parts of the brain and can really help change destructive patterns and help you heal."

SafeArt's motto and mission is, "Creating community and healing through the expressive arts."

There is a full menu of options at SafeArts' Altus Healing Arts Center in Chelsea. Toddlers and children can join in the after-school arts programs and there is also team support for women affected by mental illness and trauma.

Taylor said the space itself is open and welcoming. "Every day is different," she said. "We do a lot of one-on-one and individual work so it might be a session of drawing, it might be dancing, it might be drumming ... a lot of times there is acting and performing. It might even start with a theater game with a bunch of teenagers ... to get them to really let their guard down and let them know that this is a safe place to feel their feelings and have fun."

SafeArt also has residencies in local middle school, high school and college settings.

"Creativity, creative movement, those all charge up different parts of the brain and can really help change destructive patterns and help you heal." — SafeArt executive director Bridgett Taylor

Taylor said, "We have done a lot of hard research on trauma and have turned that into some trauma-informed training that we deliver at times to school faculty. We have also done school residencies in the past where youth can learn about how their own brains work. When you have a better understanding of how your brain works ... it can make a real difference in your life."

Taylor said SafeArt residencies in the school setting can teach students and young adults techniques that may help to "support other kids or prevent the abuse and trauma in the first place."

SafeArt's mission statement includes a commitment to "providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone."

Members of the SafeArt community are at the Chelsea Farmers Market on Fridays between 3 and 6 p.m. through the month of July.

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