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“222” will be on display as part of the “Trauma, Trials and Triumph” exhibit.

Drake exhibit explores teens’ ‘Trauma, Trials and Triumph’

A new exhibit of art and essays created by troubled adolescents who reside at the Iowa Juvenile Home opened Tuesday, Oct. 7, at Drake University’s School of Education, 3206 University Ave.

The exhibit, “Trauma, Trials and Triumph . . . As Evident Through Artistic Expression,” is based on the theme that burdens, no matter how heavy, can be overcome.

Residents of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, Iowa, produced the more than 30 works in the exhibit through the therapeutic art program. The home is the state training school for delinquent girls and also serves boys and girls who are deemed Children in Need of Assistance, typically as a result of abuse or neglect.

“This exhibit offers the opportunity to see how Iowa treats at-risk children in dire circumstances and how kids respond to treatment and grow,” said Kathy Fejes, Drake professor of education and co-organizer of the exhibit.

There are paintings, sculptures, woodworking projects and digital photographs created by young artists ranging in age from 14 to 17. Each work is accompanied by the artist’s essay detailing the emotions and events that prompted the creative expression.

“The photos in the exhibit are phenomenal,” said Fejes, who has worked more than 15 years with adolescents and staff at the Iowa Juvenile Home. “You can see the layers, not just in the photo, but the layers of emotion.”

“The artists are anonymous, although they should be commended for having the courage to offer their work for public display,” said Gary Olson, co-organizer of the exhibit and director of the therapeutic art program at the home.

“Within this collection of work can be seen the trials or complications that result when one succumbs to rage, aggression, suicidal ideation, learned helplessness, loneliness, fear and despair,” Olson said.

“Those artists who are able to identify the source of their initial anger within their imagery are considered to be on their way towards resolution and towards the restoration of hope in their lives,” he added.

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“Sea 4” will be on display as part of the “Trauma, Trials and Triumph” exhibit.

“Trauma, Trials and Triumph” includes only art that has genuine
artistic merit. The show is intended to showcase the students’ artistic
talents, demonstrate the effectiveness of art therapy as a
rehabilitative intervention, and educate the public about the Iowa
Juvenile Home.

The exhibit opened Tuesday, Oct. 7, in the Curriculum
Library of the School of Education and will be on display Monday
through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through the middle of

Drake education students in two of Fejes’ classes will
examine and analyze works in the exhibit. The participating classes are
Introduction to Special Education and Global Perspectives on
Spirituality and Learning.

“I expect my students to gain an understanding of how
therapeutic art can help teens with emotional and behavioral disorders
attain personal and spiritual growth,” Fejes said.

She noted that “Most students at the Iowa Juvenile Home
have had trouble finding acceptable ways to express themselves in their
communities, often lashing out with anger, violence and other criminal
behavior. The art program offers them a way of expressing deep feelings
without getting in trouble.”

Fejes also has submitted a proposal to develop a
multimedia presentation of the art and essays in the exhibit to be
shown at the 11th biennial conference of the International Association
for Special Education. The conference, which will take place next July
in Alicante, Spain, is titled “Broadening the Horizon: Recognizing,
Accepting and Embracing Differences to Make a Better World for
Individuals with Special Needs.”

After “Trauma, Trials and Triumph” leaves Drake, the
exhibit will travel across Iowa next year with stops at Marshalltown
Community College, Iowa State University and University Hospitals in
Iowa City.

Drake’s School of Education hosted a similar exhibit of
art by residents of the Iowa Juvenile Home in 2006. That exhibit,
“Trauma Reflected in Art,” will be displayed permanently in the School
of Education once the new exhibit completes its tour around the state.