Some people feel the best way to build self-esteem is to build something; that people feel good about themselves when they feel good about what they've made.
In this case, "some people" are artist Larnie Fox, poet Katharine Coles, book-binder Dorothy Greenland and Diane Shea, calligrapher.With a developmental support grant from the Salt Lake City Arts Council, the foursome took on the task of helping local homeless kids put together a book of original drawings, thoughts and handwriting.
It's called "A Place I've Come From, A Place I'm Going."
"The project was an attempt to help the homeless kids get a sense of themselves, try to help them get a sense of a past and a future," says Coles. Adds Fox: "It was a chance for the kids to work with professionals and develop something that could be displayed."
And the book will definitely be displayed. From Jan. 7-13 it will be at the Salt Lake City-County Building, the Art Barn from Jan. 14-20, The Children's Museum in Salt Lake City through the month of February and will later appear at the University of Utah Marriott Library.
Even Norman Rockwell might envy such exposure.
The book was a week in the making. After Coles and Shea helped the kids put a little style in both their writing and handwriting, Fox took over and got them to "think big" on the page, to use all the space they could for their pictures.
Greenland then brought the project home by pulling it all together under one cover.
The result is a book that features brooding and turbulent colors and thoughts as well as happy-time sunshine paintings, leading one to believe that the whole spectrum of humanity can be found in one homeless shelter.
"In short," says Kim Duffin of the Salt Lake Arts Council, "this was the kind of innovative collaboration we like to see. It proved to be a great opportunity for the kids."
As for the kids themselves, many came away from the project surprised at how well they did. Several brought mothers in so they could show off their work, and the parents themselves were pleased with the result.
But the real growth just may be in the artists who conceived the project. Says Coles: "It was very rewarding. I think all of us learned that homeless kids have been through a lot and are very resilient, but they're still like kids everywhere else. In some cases, they haven't picked up that surface veneer that a lot of modern kids have, so they can be very honest and open about their feelings."
"I thought there would be a problem with discipline," says Fox, "but there wasn't. The kids went right along with us. And they didn't try to give us what they thought we wanted, they got right down to how they felt. It was great."
Needless to say, other book projects are now being brainstormed.