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July 27, 2012 - 

When her church, Awake Christian Reformed Church in Seattle, Wash., offered an art class exploring fear and humanity, Megin was skeptical. She was unsure how she could use painting to express her true self. But for Megin, the art class “The Day We Were Afraid,” taught by Jackie Moulton, is a place to discover who she is and how her life is navigated by fear.

Art class participants work on their self portraits.

“Now I look forward to it every week. It has given me a sense of confidence,” she said.

Twenty-two people representing a diversity of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds began meeting in mid-June at Aurora Commons, a hospitality center run by members of Awake Church. For eight weeks participants work on self-portraits using acrylic paints while talking about fear.

Karen Cirulli, director of community life at Aurora Commons, said, “[Jackie Moulton] is not teaching us how to paint. It is more about how we are choosing to express it. I feel more vulnerable and a challenge to explore who I am.”

Participants are also challenged to write three pages in a journal each day. The purpose of the writing exercises is to get people’s creative juices flowing. “She encourages us to think outside the box and use different objects and symbols to describe yourself,” said Cirulli.

Megin has enjoyed getting to know the variety of people in the class. “It is a small group and it’s the same people every week. I actually have started talking to people and getting to know them,” she said.

The fact that the class is free means anyone can attend, including a few who are homeless or in transition. For Cirulli, that means people who live in an affluent neighborhood can sit at the same table as someone who is sleeping in the back parking lot.

“We are teaching each other how to be in community. That is the gem in that,” she said.

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