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Teens use art to navigate trauma as part of Family Enhancement Center's annual fundraiser

Every April, the Family Enhancement Center hosts an annual fundraising campaign in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

MINNEAPOLIS — Every child remembers their first monster, the thing that once kept them up at night.

"I like how each monster expresses how a teenager feels in life," said 18-year-old Jose Rosas. "Us teenagers facing our daily difficulties that we have."

For Braylen Williams and Jose Rosas, those monsters look a little different. 

"This one, I think is trauma," said 15-year-old Braylen Williams. "They're situations that I have been through in the past."

"My life was full of fear and too much violence," said Williams. "So I made a monster that's sharp, on fire and who is angry all the time, and to just be honest, making this monster reminds me of what I'm scared of who I am scared of: my father, who I grew up with."

It's not easy to confront a monster, but through art, it's an outlet for these teens and those sometimes hard to express emotions.

Every April, the Family Enhancement Center hosts an annual fundraising campaign in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

On April 23, they're showcasing this art at the Modus Locus Gallery in Minneapolis — the first teen exhibition.

"So the event is just a wonderful collaboration with Modus Locus Gallery and the Family Enhancement Center to allow youth in two of our programs — Drum Beat and Healing Motion — to have an opportunity to show their healing journey in a visual format."

At least one in seven children have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year in the United States. While many cases go unreported, the CDC says in 2020, 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States.

While the pandemic affected everyone in different ways, teens in the program decided to use art as a way to heal.

"It's really a group where young people can talk about what they feel; process the difficulty they've been experiencing," said Holly Clarke, lead therapist with the Family Enhancement Center. "I think being able to have arts means of expressing, coping, seeing yourself externalized when you have hard stuff going on inside," said Amber Melyus.

"The theme of it is 'Stranger Things,' but the mind of a teenager," said Rosas.

Braylen and Jose say they no longer fear those monsters and reminders of the past. "Making this art really healed me," said Rosas.

They're overcoming adversity and confronting it head on, one painting at a time. 

"When I come to 'Drum Beat,' it's like we have something to focus on, and it's something that got us to where we are now," said Williams.

The event kicks off April 23, and goes until April 29 at Powderhorn's Modus Locus Gallery. The organization is hoping to raise $60,000 toward its goal. For more information, visit the website here

To donate, visit the link here.

For more information on how to report abuse or neglect, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website here.

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