Art project gives youth in Auberle programs an opportunity

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The Auberle agency on Monday will unveil a new series of murals painted by their young clients at its main campus in McKeesport.

The young artists and members of the community will be at the 3:30 p.m. unveiling.

Gary Hazy, director of residential services, said 35 to 40 people ages 10 to 18 helped paint the half-dozen murals, each 8 feet by 4 feet.

The children and teens were from all 16 of Auberle's programs for at-risk families.

Mr. Hazy said in a four- to five-week process, the budding artists took art education classes to learn to put what they were feeling in the pictures and colors of the murals.

Then they worked with "Moving the Lives of Kids," a professional muralists' group that often works with at-risk youth.

He said many of the youngsters at Auberle have suffered some type of abuse or trauma, including physical abuse, or were victimized by bullying or domestic violence.

But the murals don't depict the abuse or trauma. Instead, the young artists were asked to reflect on concepts, such as safety, personal care, community and the presence of good people in the world, Mr. Hazy said.

The concepts are from The Sanctuary Model, which, according to a news release from Annie Jamieson, Auberle communications manager, incorporates medical research; best practices in promoting mental, behavioral and emotional health; and healing strategies for at-risk youth and families.

"What they're painting is all the coping skills they have in place to overcome their trauma," Mr. Hazy said. "They're really drawing the restoration of their lives."

The murals are painted in bright colors to represent positive feelings and are finished with polyurethane to give them shine, Mr. Hazy said.

Themes include family, graduation, success and tranquility, he said.

Ten girls painted self-portraits of who they would like to be in the future in terms of self-confidence and self-respect.

"The idea of being able to draw yourself with a positive self-image is huge," he noted.

Ms. Jamieson said Auberle has programs for girls at a separate location from the residences for boys. One program, GATE, helps girls with stabilization, in which those ages 12 to 20 work on issues from their pasts with therapy.

In the Bloom program, girls ages 18 to 20 focus on completing high school or getting their GED and preparing for technical school or college.

Ms. Jamieson said The Grable Foundation paid for the mural project.

Young people from Auberle programs previously completed a series of murals for the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.

"These projects allow youth and families to express and react to traumatic experiences -- ultimately helping to reduce anxiety, aggression and depression levels," she said.

Auberle helps 3,000 at-risk youth in eight counties in southwestern Pennsylvania with residential and foster care, emergency shelter and in-home intervention, among other services.


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Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:


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