Editor's note: This story is part of Sioux Falls Simplified's "A Little Help" give-back effort. We're sharing stories all month long about Journey of Hope with the goal of raising $5,000 to support the ongoing operations of this local nonprofit. You can learn more here and donate here.

Simplified: Journey of Hope – a Sioux Falls nonprofit focused on inspiring hope by meeting people where they are on their journey – brings regular art sessions to kids at the Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) as a way to help them process past trauma and set goals for the future.

Why it matters

  • Journey of Hope first connected with JDC a few years ago to ask how the nonprofit could support incarcerated kids. They began providing hygiene kits to kids as they leave the facility.
    • That partnership has since expanded, and Journey of Hope now offers regular yoga classes and art as therapy sessions.
  • These sessions give kids a chance to not only process their emotions in a new way, but they also give the kids a positive interaction with an adult in the community, said Nate Ellens, assistant director at JDC.
  • It's not about being "good" at art or completing a project to get a good grade, said Lisa Brunick, a longtime art teacher and licensed art therapist who leads the art session. It's about feeling your feelings.
"They get permission from an adult to be more real and let their guard down for a minute which takes a lot of courage on their part," Brunick said. "I frequently acknowledge that ... I'm just giving you a chance to make your mark."

What's a typical art as therapy session like?

A typical session is about 45 minutes to an hour with a group of four to eight kids.

  • For context, JDC on average has 28 kids at any given time, Ellens said.

Brunick starts the sessions with a grounding exercise, encouraging students to connect with the soles of their feet, relax their arms and take some deep breaths.

Then, she works through a curriculum that was developed by two art therapists to follow typical brain development.

"Art therapy helps access the right side of the brain, which is where trauma is stored," Brunick said. "You're not having to talk about it and find the words. You're able to express yourself visually."

For example, a recent prompt called the "ugliest drawing" encouraged kids to take a crayon and scribble on a piece of paper.

"The longer they scribble, the more intense they get ... the energy just starts flowing out," Brunick said.
  • Then, students took their scribbled drawings and tore them into pieces. Brunick then had them reassemble the pieces on a black background and use gold paint to fill in the cracks.
"You see the tension release as they symbolically repair what's broken," Brunick said.

Through it all, Brunick reminds the kids how brave they're being by participating in these art projects

Another recent session asked kids to illustrate an emotion they're feeling.

How can I support Journey of Hope?

Donate here – and be sure to mention Sioux Falls Simplified's A Little Help campaign in the notes section.

You can also support the art as therapy, specifically, by attending an upcoming art show on Sept. 12 at Rehfeld's Art and Framing. Artwork completed in the JDC art sessions will be on display to show the public the work being done.

  • Brunick shared the story of one boy's response to learning his artwork would be on display. When she asked his permission, he gave an enthusiastic, 'Yes!'
"'We want the public to know that we are not just criminals here,' he said, 'We are real people, and we have talents and plans for our future. We want people to know that we have these positive parts of ourselves to share with the community,'" Brunick said. "All the guys behind him were like, 'Yeah!'"

More from our A Little Help campaign:

This new partnership will help connect more kids to hygiene products
Journey of Hope will connect hundreds of Sioux Falls kids from low-income families with free and accessible hygiene products.
How deodorant and clean socks can inspire hope
Last year, Journey of Hope distributed 18,000 hygiene products and partnered with 33 agencies in Sioux Falls – including 11 schools.
How β€˜A Little Help’ can go a long way
Introducing our new give-back program.