Students are combatting gunfire with a different kind of fire. Project Fire, a 10-week pilot program aimed at promoting recovery from trauma, gave students the opportunity to use glass blowing as a creative outlet.
Project Fire (Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment) took four students from around the Chicago area, and two mentors, all of who have been affected by gun violence in some way.
In partnership with Ignite Community Class, Healing Hurt People-Chicago and the University of Chicago, the students involved were able to create illustrious shapes that took the form of glass, which was showcased on last Wednesday at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave.
“I try to make none of my work look the same,” said Alex Harris, a Kenwood resident in Project Fire.
His beautiful pieces took the form of vases or bowls with various techniques he learned in the program.
“I like having self-competition to make myself work harder,” he said.
Harris, like the rest of the students in the project, saw gun violence first-hand when his brother, Aaron, was shot in front of him last year. For him, Project Fire has helped him cope by focusing his mind on the project at hand.
“It’s a form of meditation for me…just talking about it makes me relaxed,” he said.
Brad Stolbach, the Clinical Director of Healing Hurt People-Chicago, worked with the kids first-hand and saw the many benefits of glass blowing.
“The medium itself has some therapeutic qualities built into it,” he said. “One of the things that happens when you’re traumatized is that you’re not really able to be in the present moment and respond to what’s happening…you’re focused on what’s happened in the past.”
The extreme attention to detail that goes into glass blowing goes beyond the activity as an art form made the kids focused and attentive to their creative side.
“You’re working with over 2,000 degrees of materials in the summer heat, you’re holding a four foot long pole with 15 to 20 pounds of molten glass at the end and you’re arms get week,” Harris said. “You have to pay attention making sure you rotate at the exact right time, it’s like playing an instrument.”
At Wednesday’s event, the students were able to present what they created. Each of their pieces was for sale, ranging from $12 to $800, and 100 percent of the proceeds went back to the artist.
For the students, it wasn’t just a way to cope with the violence they have seen or a job for them to go to twice a week, but for some, it has turned into something even more.
“I have been glass blowing for four years and will definitely continue. I hope to make it my career path,” said N’Kosi Barber, who was a mentor in the program.
Barber was first introduced to glass blowing when he attended Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy, 1060 E. 47th St. He mentored the younger students not only in glass blowing, but also in being able to relate to their experiences with gun violence.
“They found the glass and the creativity to be in some ways a life changer, so that’s a whole component of it that’s separate from the art itself,” Stolbach said. “They all took it seriously and it seems they want to continue with it.”
[Via: Hyde Park Herald]