Upon first entering a room where a transformative art playshop is about to begin, one immediately senses that this is something different--very different. And fun. Amid the cornucopia of colors, you see handmade papers, streams of ribbons, variegated yarn, and deep-hued raffia. Fabrics of many textures and designs await your touch. Watercolor markers and the BIG box of crayons entice you. Beads of all shapes, made of glass, crystal, wood and bone, beckon you to play. The heady smell of craft paint and white glue may even cause you to have a first-grade flashback.

And that’s exactly where Qaadira Allen wants you to be. “Getting people to open up creatively is all about safety,” says Allen, who developed this workshop model that blends the power of art & spirit for personal growth, staff development, and building community. As a visual artist herself, she understands the importance of having an environment where you can feel as free as a first grader when it comes to expressing your creativity. Her formula seems to be working. One participant commented, “It was a pleasure to [finally] have the freedom to create. Create and meditate upon my hopes and desires.”

Transformative art, in part, evolved from Allen’s own personal self discovery journey. “In 1996, I experienced a premature mid-life crisis” she confides. “I quit my job and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. In the process of ‘getting away from it all’, I re-discovered myself — as an artist, teacher, and healer. And by using the very same techniques that are incorporated in transformative art, I came to a place of peace and acceptance about my purpose on the planet.”

The primary focus of each transformative art session is a hands-on creative project specifically designed to invite dialogue around the topic being explored. Other experiential activities are also incorporated. One of the core programs entitled “Looking in the Mirror of Self is a seven session series that has been presented at Temple University. Allen is actively involved in other art & healing initiatives, especially those involving women. She designed an “art & healing” session for a breast cancer survivor support group and is a contract provider of creative arts workshops for adolescents in the City of Philadelphia’s youth detention facility.

With intriguing titles like “Re-claiming Your Power,” “Celebrating MoonTime,” “Creating A Life You Love to Look At,” and “Altaring Your Way Through Transition & Change,” there truly is something for everyone. For example, one session entitled “Un-masking Your Authentic Self” gave women of color an opportunity to explore their thoughts and feelings around self-identity and image. The art project consisted of making masks from a direct plaster mold of each woman’s face. [The completed masks are currently on display at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.] As one attendee at the recent opening reception noted, “You tend to think of masks as hiding something, but these masks actually reveal much about the person who created it.”

For many participants, the thoughts, feelings, and images that came out of the art making process are insightful and even surprising. The sense of community and sharing is reflective, spontaneous, and always from the heart. Some are so affected that they want to “take the experience home,” telling all their family and friends. They also tell their employers, and word-of-mouth referrals have been Allen’s primary source of organizational clients. “I love the idea of bringing art (and soul) into the workplace,” says Allen. “To date, clients include universities, libraries, patient support groups, cultural centers, holistic wellness centers, corporations, and social service agencies.

For Qaadira Allen, who represents one of the new breed of healing artist, it’s simple. “The bottom line is this the more that you know, honor, and accept yourself the healthier (and happier) you will be. Art making, by its very nature, is a perfect doorway to that place”

Reprinted with permission, The Black Suburban Journal

Author's Bio: 

Qaadira Allen is an award-winning artist/educator, author, and master facilitator who creates powerful transformative experiences that are designed to inspire, empower, and heal. Her unique fusion of creative, spiritual, and energetic tools help others craft a life they love. As the founder of The Center for Transformative Art, Qaadira has facilitated more than 400 transformational group experiences in the U.S. and the Caribbean. She has also initiated special programs for women in transition, people with cancer, seniors, at-risk youth, teachers, entrepreneurs, and social workers. To find out more about transformative art or learn how you can create powerful groups, visit http://www.centerfortransformativeart.com