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Project Background

Renaissance Village Art Therapy Trip #4 – April 2006

By Karla Leopold LMFT, ATR, Fine Artist

This was our fourth trip back to Louisiana to work with the families living in the trailer park. The trip was made possible with the financial support of Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, local support from organizations like The Baton Rouge Area Foundation and advocates like Sister Judith Brun. Because we continue to return, trust has been built with the families. We fill the tent with people of all ages. One mother shared, that it was the first time since moving there that she had left her trailer for three days in a row.

The talented and caring team was the largest yet, composed of art therapists, teachers, photojournalists, artists, and volunteers, local and national film crews. It was a very busy week with a visit from Rosie and a trip to New Orleans to take photographs.

The conditions at Renaissance Village had not improved. The kitchen serving the families was closed. Many of the residents who worked there lost their jobs. The children had no place to play except in the gravel road. There are no drinking fountains for the children. The bus service was cut back to limited service. Many of the children are failing classes or not going to school.

The main art therapy focus of this trip was to prepare the teenagers to take photographs in New Orleans. We had worked hard for over three weeks to prepare them for their return to the site of trauma and devastation. It was an important step for their healthy recovery. The buses were loaded with over fifty people, the majority teenagers. We stopped at the Lake View area, the breach in the levee, and the Ninth Ward. For some it was the first time back. The photos that were taken were amazing! The teenagers were encouraged to be the photojournalists of their generation. They were instructed to record history through the lens of those who had experienced and lived through one of our nation’s largest disasters.

We spent the next two days processing and journaling with the participants. Many took a big step forward in the healing process. One boy decided to settle down in school and move ahead because what he had fantasized was left in New Orleans was not there. Realizing that many had lost everything, another teenager changed the way he looked at his living situation.

You will be able to view many of theses photos at Katrina Through the Eyes of Children, the art exhibit of their work, opening Fall 2006, and in American Photographer September issue.

Much is to be learned from these wonderful children. Their courage and ability to keep going in such difficult conditions is to be admired. They are talented and hopeful but so many suffer anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. What we can do with your help and support is save one child at time. Katrina Through the Eyes of Children will continue the story. It will make sure that these children are not forgotten.


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