New nonprofit Northwest Expressive Arts Response offers healing through art – The Observer

Ukrainian flag with cut out hand prints

Freshly hung mirrors, artwork and vibrant rainbow prayer flags adorn the walls of the newly opened office for local nonprofit Northwest Expressive Arts Response (NEAR) where, every day, community members can be found playing drums and other instruments or turning art supplies into stories to tell.

According to the NEAR website, the association opened in January and is located in the courtyard of the Methodist Church. Former CWU speaker and executive director of NEAR, Nancy Doolittle, said her personal art holds space and provides tools for people to express themselves.

“I came up with this name, NEAR, to fill a need of individuals, families, communities and schools,” Doolittle said. “In our county, we have serious concerns about young people, substance abuse and obviously overdoses. It was very sad last year; we had an overdose of four students.

Doolittle said she hopes her nonprofit will be able to address some of those concerns and needs in a way that helps deal with trauma, often in a way that doesn’t involve talking to people. high voice.

“Sometimes if you have been traumatized it is even difficult to access the story, and through arts, movement, theatre, music, visual arts, dance… a story can be published and out,” Doolittle said.

Doolittle said NEAR focuses on serving marginalized communities, such as immigrants, BIPOC, formerly incarcerated and homeless people.

“We prioritize underserved, underrepresented, immigrant and Indigenous populations,” Doolittle said. “We are available to create workshops in response to the different needs of the communities.

NEAR recently hired new intern, Senior Professional English and Creative Writing Chloeanne Erickson, who believes her experience will allow her to connect with others.

“I will be working with homeless and homeless youth with creative writing as a tool to heal and confront these issues,” Erickson said. “I have my own personal experience with these issues, so it’s come full circle to be able to give back to the community in this way.”

Erickson said she hopes those struggling with these issues will feel less alone seeing someone like her who has overcome similar challenges.

“It’s important for students navigating this…to have a tangible experience where they see their peers and other students struggling with this,” Erickson said. “It’s a lot more pervasive than we’d like to see.”

Doolittle said NEAR has partnered with a Seattle organization called La Resistencia, which was created in response to inmates held at the Northwest Detention Center, and plans to continue working with their movement.

NEAR has become active in the community recently, and one of its first service projects was in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. After the war began in February, Doolittle and Gallery One director Monica Miller hoped to show their support for Ukraine by sewing two sheets together, one yellow and one blue, to create a Ukrainian flag.

Doolittle sat at a table outside Gallery 1 during the First Friday Art Walk on March 1 and invited community members to trace their hands on paper, cut them out and write encouraging messages to attach to the flag. Photos of the flag were then sent to contacts in Ukraine for them to share.

“A united couple for Ukraine; they made their hands with their wedding rings,” Doolittle said. “I met a mother and her daughter, and the daughter was half Ukrainian, the mother is a survivor of Nazi Italy, and they both have their handprints on them.”

NEAR plans to continue inviting engagement by hosting three workshops in May as part of a series called Fuentes de Esperanza in partnership with El Centro Latino and Latin American Studies Program.

The first workshop is called “Voices On the Wind: Prayers in Flight,” taking place May 5 at the Museum of Culture and Environment. The second workshop is entitled “Point in time: finding a home” which will take place on May 12th. The last workshop will be entitled “Book of Life: Telling Our Stories – Past, Present, Future”, taking place on May 19th.

Additionally, NEAR’s first fundraiser will take place on May 20 from 6-9 p.m. at the Hal Holmes Center and will feature live music performances. The event is free and open to all ages. Students can get involved by visiting NEAR’s Facebook page or website.

Virginia S. Braud