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Written By: Mikel Bresee mikelpic

Admittedly, when Barbara Kratchman approached me about the College for Creative Studies supporting an arts program for Kadima, I was skeptical, but intrigued. Our programs focus on incorporating art into the lives of young people, particularly in schools. We had done very little in the way of programming for adults, especially those with enhanced needs. If we (CCS) were going to stray from our mission, we really had to make sure it was the right thing to do overall. Ultimately, I’m glad we jumped in.

The more I listened and saw the excitement and enthusiasm radiating from Barbara and Jean, intuitively, I felt we could help make a difference using art in a therapeutic way. We created a program to engage people with mental illness out in nature and into the community to step outside of themselves and relax.

I was surprised by the quality of the artwork produced by program participants. In some cases, the paintings and photography rivaled that of contemporary art. But it was interactions with the guardians of program participants that captured my heart. I learned that some of these parents rarely get to hear positive things about their adult children. I’ll never forget seeing the pride and excitement in their faces when we described the remarkable aspects of their children’s artwork .

Kadima has a real focus on family and the immediate community and how both can be part of therapy. I've seen Kadima folks interacting with those they serve and their guardians, and it’s impressive. The social component seems to be at the heart of Kadima, and I respect that a great deal.

Embracing the arts as core to who we are as human beings seems to be something pretty unique that's going on at Kadima. I’m not sure a program like this would be the same with any other organization. It works because Kadima has the other pieces in place to reinforce the therapeutic progress made through the art.

I would love to see the arts become an event greater part of what Kadima does. And as others understand the benefits of arts education and exploration for people with mental illness, we hope to find additional funding streams to support this work. At this point, Kadima and Creative Expressions are making great progress, and we look forward to seeing how the program can continue to impact individuals in the years to come.