Life Above the Ordinary: A Mixed Media Reflection on Art & Jewelry as a Ministry of Presence

Creating a mixed media journal entry to capture the essence of my experience inside a so-called detention center for immigrant women and children seeking asylum helped me reflect and debrief and celebrate some of the joys of the experience. I chose a previously begun page with the title "Life Above the Ordinary" because that aptly expresses how I feel about the privilege of doing art as a ministry of presence for incarcerated women and children.
Softening the lines of a watercolor crayon.
The pretty papers represent the women & children. The background is difficult to see but it's a stencil of the USA with white gesso and represents the diverse places across the USA where these women have family members waiting for them. I used bright colors to symbolize hope for the future. I had done art with the women and children several times and then one day making earrings in the morning and bracelets in the afternoon. The I used beads to make the leaves on the flowers as a reminder of the joy experienced with the women. 
A 3-year-old helps his mother make a braided bead bracelet. Tenderness and patience abound.

The women gained personal agency by choosing the colors and designing the style of earring they desired.
A little girl told me it was her birthday: she is 9. Her mother made her a pink pair of earrings in the afternoon, and she helped her mother make a pink and purple bracelet in the afternoon. Two beautiful birthday presents inside locked walls.

Where are you Going? Mixed Media Reflection at an Immigrant Detention Facility

I created a simple mixed media reflection project to help immigrant women and children who are seeking asylum in the U.S. from violence in their homelands to understand the context of where they are being detained (in South Texas) and where their family member is awaiting them in diverse places across the (vast) U.S.
I had prepared 8-1/2 x 11 card stock watercolor paper with a stenciled image of a map of the U.S. I spritzed diluted watercolors ahead of time so the project would be easy to facilitate inside the incarceration center.
I also had the scripture verse summary printed in Spanish (from the English shown here):
In Exodus 3:7-9, YHWH is a big, self-assertive talker. God resolved:
          I have seen their misery.
          I have heard their cry.
          I know their sufferings.
          I have come down to deliver.
          I will bring them to a good and broad land.

          For I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them.
The exercise integrates the theology of God's care for the Israelite people when God saw their suffering and brought them out of bondage to the Promised Land. I also had a fun step-by-step exercise to draw a simple face "portrait" based upon a wonderful "how to" included in recently released Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces with Jane Davenport. Her illustrated and numbered process takes the fear out of being able to draw a "good" portrait. The kids and mothers practiced on the back of the map and then drew mini versions of the portraits on the front to symbolize their family members in detention in Texas and the family member(s) awaiting them somewhere in the U.S.A. 

My simple show-and-tell sample. The significance of the art was really identifying WHERE the detention center is compared to where the detained family still hopes to travel to join their loved one in the U.S.A.

(Good and Bad) Memories from Home

I modified an earlier art journal reflection project ("Dump Sheet Self Portrait) to help immigrant women and children being detained at a Texas detention center while seeking asylum from violence in their homelands. The participants included 220 women and children ranging from toddlers to the mothers in their early to late 20s. They had about 90 minutes to create their artful reflection.

The process included the following steps (which I had printed in Spanish and English to refer to):
Memories of Home Mixed Media Layered Art
1.     Write or stencil your name onto the background paper.
2.     Choose 1 or 2 two foam stamp shapes that remind you of home and stamp them on the background paper.
3.     Choose one stencil shape that reminds you of home and use a colored pencil, marker, pen, or crayon to outline the shape from the stencil onto the background paper.
4.     Use a #2 grey lead pencil to write your good and bad memories from home on the cut-out shape of a head.
5.     Glue the Psalm 23 scripture to the background paper.
6.     Glue the head to the background paper.
7.     Use any color crayon that you like to outline the face. Add eyes, nose, and a mouth. Add hair.
8.     Decorate the background with more stencils and stamps that help to tell the story of your home.
9.     Use water color or tempura paint to color parts of your art. (It is okay to paint over all or part of your face.)
10.  Glue the second Bible verse onto the page (Psalm 118:24)
11.   Paper punch a shape and glue onto your page.
12.  Title your art. You can name it anything you want. Sometimes it is fun to name it simply Memories from (your home country).

13.  Write March 2015 in the corner so you can remember when you created your art piece.

Introduction to Zentangle Inside a Detention Center for Immigrants Seeking Asylum

The introduction to Zentangle was a BIG hit for immigrant women and children who are incarcerated inside a detention center and seeking asylum from violence in their homelands. I had the privilege of doing art projects two days during spring break 2015, and the kids and moms totally enjoyed the zen of tangling. I brought half a dozen books on "how to" and put one one each table. They flipped through the books for ideas and then got right to it. Of course, they created their own designs too.
The artist added the black border and the black lines between patterns.
 We used glitter pens, colored pencils, and #2 lead pencils. Each person had a 5x7 piece of black card stock and a 5x7 piece of white card stock. (I had larger pieces for small children to use with crayons.) They could make a design on the front and the back of each piece. The most difficult concepts to get across included that "big is not better" and "fill the entire page." It was my mantra to say: continue; keep going, add more; fill the page. During the afternoon session, some of the kids added color with watercolors or pastels. Most of the kids were totally intrigued with "just" the pencils or the glitter pens.
Glitter pens on white. The card size is larger (it was intended for the little kids to use with crayons).

Colored pencil on white with watercolors.

#2 lead pencil on white.

The central design was colored with watercolor paint.

Map of USA Stencil Provides Background for Mixed Media Dreams

I've been doing art with immigrant mothers & children who are seeking asylum in the USA from violence in the homelands. With my limited Spanish I've been asking where they are coming from and where they are going to. (85% have family members in the USA who are willing to sponsor them.) I realized it could be a very helpful art journal experience to use a map of the USA as the background. Here I'm mass producing a stencil of the USA for the group art project with 220+ women & children. I'm using a squirt of liquid Watercolor in a spray bottle filled with water. Shake well to prevent clogs.

ZenDoodling Inside Locked Doors

Today I'm taking basic art supplies inside the locked doors of a "detention facility" which holds 500 immigrant women and children who are seeking asylum in the U.S. from violence in their homelands. Since they will have limited access to writing materials and papers I'm opting to show & tell ZenDoodling using pre-cut white and/or black card stock and #2 lead pencils, colored pencils, and crayons for the little kids. It will be a group of mixes ages from toddlers to the moms who are generally in their 20's.