Hearts Mend Hearts group helps community heal from church shooting with free art classes

VIDEO: Hearts Mend Hearts group helps community heal from church shooting with free art classes

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A local organization has a mission to use art to help people heal after the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting. Hearts Mend Hearts is offering free classes to people of all ages at the Charleston County Public Library downtown.

These art sessions can help people cope during difficult times like it did for Karen Thrower. Thrower's friend passed away in 2007.

"She had a heart for life and I just shared, love, life, friend, music joy all of the things that reminded me of her."

Karen Thrower recalls when she drew a piece of artwork she made in an art therapy session.

"I remember how I felt making it and even though I was sad I have great joy looking at it because it is a reminder of the beautiful person that she was," says Thrower.

Art therapist Diane Vincent says she and a group of mental health professionals want share the power of art to help the community deal with the church shooting or anything else.

"We'll ask them to start drawing mandalas," says Vincent. "Mandalas are a universal symbol used in all cultures and all regions as a way to heal. The word means healing circle, safe inner refuge."

People of all ages can participate and people are free to express feelings of sadness or even feelings of joy. Art instructor Laura De La Maza has encouraged her students to draw mandalas in the classroom for years.

"We have to process what's happening in our country and the grief that we're experiencing, we're seeing all these images on TV," says De La Maza.

"Sometimes it's really difficult to use words and when we use that right side of our brain, we are going to be a lot more freer and we will feel safer," says Vincent.

In these sessions you'll create your mandala in a quiet space with therapeutic music in the background. You'll also have the opportunity to share what you created if you'd like.

"Our emotional process that we go through doesn't have to be something that is carried in sadness, carried in silence, carried in shame," says Thrower. " A lot times people don't want to share what's going on inside and I believe that art gives us the ability quietly to express ourselves."

A mental health professional will be present at every class. Art classes are held every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at the Charleston County Public Library through the month of September.

For details go to www.heartmendhearts.com.