HeArt and hope: Colorado Springs exhibit showcases healing effects of artwork for foster kids

Experts say putting pen or paintbrush to paper can help foster children build up their self-esteem, improve social skills and strengthen relationships.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:08 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Sometimes it’s the simplest tools that can pave the way towards healing.

Experts say putting pen or paintbrush to paper can help foster children build up their self-esteem, improve social skills and strengthen relationships, among so many other benefits.

“It’s very helpful to them,” said Jorja Harrison, a foster mom. “They can paint or draw or write their feelings in a way that’s very personal to them. It doesn’t have to be good, and it can just be a bunch of mediums splashed on a canvas. It’s all about letting out those feelings.”

On the walls of Library 21C hangs a testament to the resiliency of local foster kids.

As part of National Foster Care Month, the library is hosting an art exhibit through May 31, showcasing artwork done by foster kids and their support systems. Called “Through Our Eyes,” the exhibit was organized by Colorado Springs-based foster care organization, Kids Crossing.

The exhibit includes paintings, drawings, a story.

“[Kids Crossing] just put out a broadcast saying they were doing an art show, and they would love to exhibit anybody that would like to participate their art. And they didn’t really put many parameters on it, it was whatever the child or adult wanted to exhibit,” Harrison said. “... If you look at some of them, there’s definitely some art therapy works involved. You can definitely tell which ones might have a therapeutic value and which ones might be just a child who wants to paint.”

The exhibit can be found on the library’s second floor. It’ll be on display again in July at the Penrose Library in downtown Colorado Springs.

Harrison’s 14-year-old daughter through foster care took part.

“It’s an abstract painting, and it’s titled ‘Upside Down.’ What you see on the surface isn’t always what you see underneath, and sometimes what’s underneath is darker than what’s on the surface.”

Harrison knows the foster system well -- she has fostered around 60 kids over the last 13 years!

“We have a lot to give, a lot of knowledge to give, a lot of love to give, and that’s kind of where foster care came into play.”

Of those 60, she has adopted four.

“Always first and foremost in foster care, reunification is always, always, always the number one goal. Our goals are to reunify those children with their parents or a kinship member. Sometimes that’s not always an option, so if a child has been in our home a couple of years and reunification isn’t an option, we’ve adopted them. We also do what’s called open adoption, in which case we can allow those extended family members and parents part of the child’s life, it just they’re in a safe and nurturing permanent environment versus maybe they can’t reach permanency with their biological family.”

What would she say to others considering foster care?

“I think first and foremost, it’s always about the child and not about your own personal desires. And you have to be strong of heart and strong of will.”

On average, 10 kids enter foster care every day in Colorado. The art show aims to both highlight the role creativity can play in uplifting these kids – and also remind the community that these foster kids are just that: kids.

Kids, who with extra help and support, can thrive.