Art Initiative Aims to Bring Therapeutic Benefits to Young Moms
Keyanah Williams, Stephanie Godbold and Montana DeBor stand in front of the exhibition of watercolor paintings on display through May at Central Library. (Photo by Scott McCaffrey)

Young mothers trying to balance parenting, school, work and all the other stresses of daily life need a break now and then. An initiative of Borromeo Housing aims to turn stress into a serenity with a therapeutic-art initiative that soon will head into its third year.

The program offers participants “a rare opportunity to creatively express themselves and to uncover new talents during what is a very demanding and challenging time in their lives,” said Joy Myers, executive director of Borromeo Housing, a residential program for adolescent mothers and their children.

The effort began with a piece of serendipity: Myers was at an art exhibition at Central Library, where she purchased several pieces of work by young artist Montana DeBor. She got in touch with DeBor to see if the artist would be willing to work with the young women in the Borromeo program.

“I contacted Montana kind of on a whim. She found time in her schedule, and it ended up being a successful and unobstructive way for our girls to express themselves,” Myers said during an interview at Central Library, where works by the budding artists are on display through the end of May.

For DeBor - a graduate of H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and currently a student at George Washington University and the Corcoran - the opportunity to help provide a creative outlet to the participants was too good to pass up.

“It was a fresh canvas, pun intended,” she said, “to introduce the basics of perspective and composition, and have fun. I was excited; it was really inspiring to me.”

Those participating “picked up on it very quickly,” DeBor said.

Among those whose work will be on display at the library during the month are Stephanie Godbold and Keyanah Williams. They say the monthly sessions with DeBor have been a way to de-stress from the rigors of daily living.

“I’m a people person - I’m really open to try anything once,” said Williams, who participated during the program’s first year and came back for the second. “I enjoyed it, and then I got a little more creative.”

“Montana’s a very good teacher,” added Godbold, who enjoyed drawing while in middle school and high school and now has picked it up again. “I do like to express myself creatively, [but] usually that’s something I would do alone.”

Seven young women participated in the effort this year, up from six who took part a year ago.

DeBor had praise for all the students in the program, no matter their level of innate artistic prowess.

“You can’t do it wrong,” she said of the creative process.

Myers said the Borromeo effort to introduce therapeutic-art programs could be replicated at places such as homeless shelters and hospice-care facilities.

“It provides an escape to folks who are going through all kinds of things,” Myers said. “It’s like being in another dimension.”

The artwork on display on the first floor of the library is available for purchase at $35 each piece. Funds will be funneled into Borromeo Housing’s programming.

For information on the organization, see the Web site at www.borromeohousing.org.

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