“Holistic arts therapy might seem like something you would read about in Popular Science, but for students at the CHANCE Center for Girls in Bloomington Springs, the Indian Mound Farm for Boys in DeKalb County, and the Youth Impact Center in Crossville, it has become a powerful and popular tool to help them cope with the pressures of their daily life,” Phyllis Bennett, executive director, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, stated.

Often times the at-risk youth at these facilities have never had any formal training with music and art. The goal of a new program being offered in conjunction with the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency in Cookeville and Tennessee Tech University’s Dr. Pat Coleman is to bring the arts into the environment of the youth and present it to them in a way that promotes a better sense of self-awareness and self-concept.

“Working with Tennessee Tech and Dr. Coleman, we have a great opportunity to send art students from Tech to the youth centers to introduce the arts to residential students,” said Brian Swearengen, assistant director of Residential Services at UCHRA. “Their course topics covered everything from colors to painting and drawing and even a little bit of metalwork and jewelry. In addition to the visual arts, the students also get a firsthand look at the performing arts as well, as Mrs. Faye Fuqua directed courses covering many types of music and dance.”

Music, art, and dance are pathways to an individual’s mind and spirits, and all of these can be used to express joy and sadness, manage anger or stress, and to create and celebrate inner peace. “In preparation for working with the students, I wanted them to feel like they were on a journey of discovery; they were learning through the information presented, having firsthand involvement, and experiencing enjoyment through participation in the music and dance activities. Through class participation, students have an opportunity to find ways to respond to the spirit of the music and express inner satisfaction,” stated Faye Fuqua, music education specialist.

The students displayed their artwork and were allowed to choose musical and dance pieces to perform at an event held at First Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center in Smithville on recently. The center was filled with more than 140 parents, volunteers, case workers and more. “We had a tremendous turnout and great support for this event," said Swearengen. “We are very grateful.”

The holistic arts program is unique in both its design and its focus. The program marks the first time the youth centers have had a structured, sponsored program in place to feature art and music instruction for the students. The primary goal of having the arts and music program is to offer positive coping strategies which will motivate the students forward with their lives while developing happiness, creativity and innovative spirit. These coping strategies include brain-based integration of instruction in the arts by using movement, music, dance, and visual arts to improve learning and achieve a positive self-concept for the student.

“During the performance and observation of the display of artwork of the boys and girls from the residential centers, it was clear to see the positive influence of the arts on the students. Satisfaction derived from accomplishment and the opportunity for creativity and self-expression generated smiles and happiness for the students,” stated Phyllis Bennett, executive director, UCHRA.

“The CHANCE Residential Center for Girls, the Indian Mound Farm for Boys, and Youth Impact Center for Boys are offered to teens that are referred to the centers by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The purpose of the residential program is to give teenagers an opportunity to change their lives through a therapeutic, disciplined routine in a safe, nurturing environment,” Phyllis Bennett stated.

For more information about the UCHRA’s Residential Centers or the Holistic Arts Program, please contact the UCHRA Central Office in Cookeville at (931) 528-1127 or go online at http://www.uchra.com/.