After a year of closing due to COVID-19, the expressive art studio here at St. Francis House has reopened under the leadership of art therapist, Gurleen Anand. Gurleen works diligently to ensure all our guests feel they have a safe and secure place to express themselves freely through creative mediums. As the largest day shelter in Massachusetts, we are the only site to have comprehensive art studio and related programing focused on enhancing our guest’s sense of community.
Gurleen began her career in New Delhi, India after completing both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her first position was working at a private school; after her time in India she went on to begin a position as an after school art teacher in the Malden school district. Throughout the course of her education and these different positions, Gurleen always knew that in her career she wanted to bring together therapeutic arts programming with the mission driven and life changing work of the nonprofit sector.
Now, here at St. Francis House, Gurleen does just that. She states, “The arts program offers individuals experiencing homelessness a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity to connect with a deeper part of themselves. The studio is often seen as a safe place where people can escape from their daily challenges.” Guests participate in activities such as painting, drawing, weaving, crocheting and more – all thoughtfully promoting self-expression. In addition to the therapeutic benefits of this work, projects at the art studio often have a tangible impact on guests as well. Recent projects have included making flip-flops, bags, and t-shirts that guests take with them and continue to use.
While there is no skill requirement for participating in any of our arts programming, there are some tremendously talented guests coming in and out of our doors. A current resident and frequent visitor of our center is an individual named Ayodeji. Ayodeji is an advanced canvas painter and often uses his artistic talents to express his life experience as a deaf person. For him and all our guests, the work they create is theirs to keep. Guests may take or sell their work in whatever manor they see fit. A goal of Gurleen’s in the coming months is to create a more comprehensive program where guests have the opportunity to sell and display their artwork.
To learn more about our arts programming, please visit: https://stfrancishouse.org/programs/art-therapy/