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The Art of Healing 

Almost three years ago, hundreds of disoriented and confused children, survivors of Katrina and the levee failures, began to arrive at temporary homes in the Renaissance Village, FEMA's largest trailer park, in Baker, Louisiana. There they met some permanent relief. Art therapist Karla Leopold and children's advocate Sister Judith Brun were waiting for the children, some of them severely traumatized, with a team of trained art therapists, an unlimited supply of materials and hope. One of the results is "Katrina Through the Eyes of Children," a showcase of 20 significant pieces from a larger, mixed-media collection of artwork by Katrina survivors. As part of a national tour, the exhibit will be on display both weekends of Jazz Fest in the Grandstand's west wing. These haunting but precious images are presented in a manner that protects the privacy of the children's identity while exposing a story that must be told.

In working with the survivors, Leopold realized that the storm changed the internal schema of many of the children. The typical house was being represented by just a triangle: the roof.

'So many of the children knew if they were going to be safe, they had to be on the roof. It kind of became a symbol of what happened to these children and it gives us a benchmark of their recovery as well," Leopold says. Representations of the changes that children underwent as well as particular moments from the storm can be seen in the show. "Brown Baby Dead in the Water" depicts an infant sibling that was guarded and cared for until the family was rescued.

Since Renaissance Village opened in 2005, hundreds of children have passed through the art tent, but it and the trailer park are scheduled to close on May 31. What remains from this period is an exceptional collection of work that encapsulates an important slice of history: the children's story.

'If we don't see this, we miss a very vital perspective of what happened, how it was experienced and how it will continue to play out year after year after year in the lives of our youngest victims," says Sister Brun.

click to enlarge Children work on art projects at Renaissance Village. - KATRINA THROUGH THE EYES OF CHILDREN
  • Katrina Through the Eyes of Children
  • Children work on art projects at Renaissance Village.
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