Hope Center artwork has deeper meaning for artists

'Uplifting' cafeteria wall gives artists another way to heal

@herald-leader.comJanuary 19, 2012 

James Travis Hart's story of recovery from a prescription pill addiction is one of dozens reflected in the artwork on the walls of the new Jacobs Cafeteria at the Hope Center.

Hart said an art project developed by Hope Center board member Cathy Jacobs and implemented by Sayre School art teachers Georgia Henkel and Jarah Jones "has lifted me out of a real dark place in my life."

"It's been a while since I've had something significant to show for my efforts," Hart said. "I am proud of it."

The Hope Center's mission is to care for homeless and at-risk people by providing comprehensive life rebuilding services and to address the underlying causes of homelessness.

The emergency shelter on West Loudon Avenue now houses 220 men who are homeless for a variety of reasons, said Carrie Thayer, Hope Center director of development.

In the next month, the Hope Center is scheduled to open a new cafeteria building on West Loudon and soon a new dormitory with 155 beds for men with mental health problems and addiction.

The new buildings were built in large part with a donation from Cathy Jacobs and her husband Don Jacobs.

Cathy Jacobs said she thought the cafeteria would be the perfect place for an art project.

Some clients are depressed, she said. The cafeteria "is a place for them to go where they can eat their meals and just be in a happy, uplifting environment."

Henkel, the Sayre art teacher, said Jacobs approached her for help with the art project to decorate the new cafeteria, and they decided to involve Hope Center clients and students from Sayre School, including fourth-graders studying homelessness. The Sayre students and children from the East 7th Street Center, an after-school program, were among 160 people who provided their artwork for what Henkel described as a puzzle-piece project.

Jacobs and Henkel asked participants to paint anything they wanted on a small piece of plywood. One Hope Center client painted the word "faith." Another client drew a picture of a road to indicate the journey to recovery. The small pieces of wood were arranged into several larger pieces of artwork, such as the word "hope," and at Hart's suggestion, a phoenix.

Hart, a carpenter from Jessamine County who said he abused alcohol and prescription pills, said he is court-ordered to participate in the Hope Center's men's recovery program. He is now in his fourth month of recovery.

"The phoenix relates a lot to recovery. It rises from the ashes and springs to new life," Hart said.

On the wall, next to the phoenix, is a sign Hart made that reads, "Like the mighty phoenix, we too can rise from our ashes. Drawing strength from a power unseen, we overcome our adversities and are given life."

Meanwhile, Hart said his recovery is motivated in part by his wife and three young daughters and a family who is supporting his recovery efforts.

Jacobs said several residents told her that that their artwork represented the first time in a while that they had been proud of something.

"Art is healing," she said.

Natasha Tincher said that as part of her parole when she was released from prison in 2011, she was sent to the Hope Center Recovery Program for Women on Versailles Road for help with her addictions. Tincher served a total of six years in prison for drug trafficking. She said she was addicted to alcohol and prescription pills.

While in prison, Tincher's three children went into foster care, and because she was in prison for so long, her parental rights were terminated and the children were adopted in 2009.

Tincher said the art project helped her cope with that painful separation. She drew butterflies in the art pieces she worked on.

"To me recovery is like a butterfly," she said. "We turn into something beautiful once we change. I've been at the Hope Center 101/2 months. I've seen a tremendous change in myself ... Since I've been in this program, I've gained faith."

Tincher said that she never enjoyed art before because of her drug addiction. Now she said she draws "constantly."

She said she looks at her contribution to the artworks on the wall and thinks, "That's a piece of me ... part of my recovery. That's going to be part of me when I leave."

Henkel hopes the Hope Center clients "will continue to create because they realize how good it made them feel."

Hart said he would.

"I had no idea how involved I would become," he said. "It might be an encouragement to anybody who comes after us."

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3409.

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