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"I Am Still Me" Exhibit at Cathedral Arts Project

Original source: Arbus Magazine


During the April Art Walk, an intimate collection titled “I am still me” will be on display from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Cathedral Arts Project’s (CAP) office located at 207 N. Laura Street, Suite 300. This display, presented by local non-profit Hope at Hand, showcases therapeutic poetry and art that reveals the love, pain, hope, and voice of many underserved members of our community. It will continue throughout the month.


The uniqueness of this exhibit lies in the depth of the backstory behind each and every photo. The stories told through the poems are from the perspective of local incarcerated girls, traumatized youth, recovering addicts, adolescents in recovery and others in our community who are struggling with being their best selves in the midst of their challenging circumstances. The premise behind the collection, “I may be incarcerated, but I am still me on the inside,” and “I may be in a recovery program, but I am   still me on the inside” adds a layer of richness and curiosity about the duality of pain and self-love.


Hope at Hand, Inc, founded in 2009 by Jacksonville native and veteran educator Steffani Hendricks Fletcher, is truly paving a path for thousands of local children, adolescents, women, and elders to transform themselves through the creative process using poetry and art in a group setting. When used therapeutically, these mediums have the power to shine a light on the personal barriers that limit true healing. By placing language and images around their unprocessed feelings, participants gain a deeper sense of self-awareness along with essential tools for regulating their emotions. They also deepen their understanding of their struggles and illuminate possible solutions to improve their lives.


The safe and nurturing ninety-minute group sessions help participants feel free to create, express, and simply be their authentic selves, something they may have never experienced before. Recognizing that each member is not his or her societal label, past experiences, or negative self-concepts is core to the mission of seeing each person’s true value and worth. Recently the organization expanded to include yoga and meditation to the group experience as a way to further empower the participants with more personal resources for their successful participation in society.


All sessions are provided on an outreach basis and complement programs already offered by each partner organization. The Hope at Hand sessions are created to mirror and promote the mission of each partner organization; offering a fresh approach to the same outcomes. Last year, more than three-thousand women, children, teens and elders benefitted from Hope at Hand services through partnerships with Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, Hubbard House, Gateway Community Services, PACE Center for Girls, the McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation, Pretrial Detention Facility, Department of Juvenile Justice, Hope Haven, John E. Ford PreK-8, Cypress Village, Taylor Homes, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, Youth Crisis Center and Daniel Foundation. Funds for new poetry therapy groups at the Betty Griffin House and Children’s Home Society/Buckner have already been secured.

Strong local support includes funding from the Cummer Family Foundation, Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, Firehouse Subs, TPC Red Coats, HEAL Foundation, Fletcher’s Medical Supplies and the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.


The Cathedral Arts Project teamed up with Hope at Hand to curate this collection as the two organizations share similar values in helping the underserved populations of this community through the arts. Kimberly Hyatt, president and CEO of CAP states, “At Cathedral Arts, we work to make sure every child has access to the arts, and so we’re always delighted to partner with organizations like Hope at Hand. They understand and share our belief in the transformative power of all art forms.”


The CAP mission is to “enrich the quality of life in Northeast Florida through unleashing the creative spirit of young people. By providing access to instruction in the visual and performing arts, we empower underserved, school-aged children to succeed in all areas of their lives.” CAP provides high quality instruction in dance, music, theatre and visual arts to over two-thousand students free of charge.


To celebrate National Poetry Month, the “I am still me” collection will be on display during the month of April. To contact the Hope at Hand staff, find additional information, or make a contribution visit their website www.HopeAtHand.org. Cathedral Arts Project, Inc., 207 N Laura Street, Suite 300, 281-5599.


Photo Credit: Hannah Joy Photography

Article written by Kristi Lee Schatz

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