When Armina, an Animals As Natural Therapy (ANT) intern from Denmark asked me to work with some of the kids from ANT to make art I was excited. Working with youth is a joy and a challenge all in one. Working with at-risk youth is another experience all together. I am not fond of the title “at-risk” because we all are at risk. These souls I encountered are indeed struggling to find their place. Knowing that most kids with stable home environments have little art background knowledge I was wondering what these kids would bring. We settled on creating a larger piece – a sculpture of a horse the animals that is the work-horse of the therapy animals at ANT. They are big, yet soft, seemingly wild but trustworthy, non-judgmental but know when you are not honest and call the participants on their “Stuff”.
We bought the materials and picked a night. There were 2 groups on that cold winter night. An older group of 2 and a younger group of 3. I was told teamwork could be a challenge. Safety goggles and gloves donned we started to make the legs and body. We got to talking as we felt the temps dip in the open barn. These kids were smart and kind. They seemed excited to be making something together. They reached and bent and pulled and cut and the horse began to take shape.
We fashioned the heart and placed it inside the body cavity affixing it to the chest. Teeth chattered and fingers froze but they kept working. When we had done what could be done that night the legs ended up still needing work it was sad to part. For a precious slice of time we were transformed from why we were all there to a team working on a dream and watching it come alive. I made sure to meet what family representatives there were and to let them know my heartfelt gratitude for their efforts that night.
Later I came back to put a new pvc skeleton in to fix the legs. The horse sits upstairs in the barn waiting for warmer temps and festivals. I have cut strips to affix for the mane and tail. These strips will hold written wishes and prayers from participants and the public and be tied in one at a time to make a collection of positive affirmations and hopes.
Thanks to Armina for her vision. Thanks to ANT for the opportunity. Thanks to the participants for their open hearts that night.