Special to The State Journal

Eight months after a team of local artists showcased their work with women in recovery to a standing-room crowd at The Grand Theater, the Hands Healing HeArts project is expanding in 2018. Thanks to the generosity of several Frankfort residents and organizations, the artists now have dedicated office and studio space, a full-time Americorps VISTA member, and a fiscal partnership with Josephine Sculpture Park.

These resources — along with grants from three Kentucky foundations — will allow the artists to offer children’s workshops, start a program for men in Franklin County Drug Court, and share their model with counties wishing to implement arts-based programming in their own Drug Courts.

A local property owner has donated use of a historic building in South Frankfort to house office and studio space for Hands Healing HeArts. Their generosity has provided a calm, comfortable space that encourages creativity and healing. “The support from the community has been incredible,” said Doris Thurber, the program’s founder and Artistic Director. “It seems like any time there is a need, someone comes forward to fill it.”

Such was the case with the program’s new VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) position. The VISTA program matches workers with organizations that need help building their capacity. Frankfort resident Melissa Benton, who at the time worked for the Corporation for National and Community Service, attended the Celebrating Recovery event in May and introduced the artists to the program. Rebekah Berry was hired as the full-time VISTA member for Hands Healing HeArts in August. This assistance, renewable for three years, came at just the right time for the program, which has big plans for the coming year:

• Beginning in the spring, Josephine Sculpture Park will collaborate with Hands Healing HeArts to provide art workshops for at-risk youth, including children of Drug Court participants.

• In response to requests from Drug Court staff, judges and participants, artists will begin offering arts-based programming for men.

• The Hands Healing HeArts team is compiling a package of materials and trainings to share with other counties, as interest in the program among Kentucky’s Drug Courts is high.

Grant-writer Amelia Berry has helped Hands Healing HeArts secure funding from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Snowy Owl Foundation, and the Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation.

About Hands Healing HeArts: When Doris Thurber’s 22-year-old daughter Maya died of a drug overdose in 2015, the local artist found herself turning to art to help her grieve and heal. This experience led her – together with visual artist Jennifer Zingg and filmmaker Joanna Hay – to create Hands Healing HeArts, a partnership with Franklin County Drug Court that uses the arts to guide participants toward recovery. Thurber and retired teacher Karen Hatter lead weekly sessions that introduce participants to a variety of artistic tools, including visual art, writing, drama, music, and traditional crafts. Hay’s documentary film The Art of Recovery tells the story of the project’s pilot year. More information is available at www.facebook.com/groups/HandsHealingHearts and https://www.gofundme.com/handshealing-hearts.

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