Clients posing in picture frame
Art therapy students pose with art instructor

Art as therapy is something Camillus House knows well and why it is one of their most successful programs on campus. Some clients that partake in the program and their artwork were recently invited to exhibit their pieces at the CHYL (Camillus House Young Leaders) Signature Art Showcase. Amerant Bank a continuous sponsor of the Art Therapy program also hosted the event in Coral Gables.

With Camillus House staff, board members, supporters and art teachers in attendance, all eyes were on the clients and their very personal work on display. The room was filled with colorful paintings of all shapes and sizes depicting striking figures and scenes from 16 different artists.

Camillus House art teacher David Rohn was in attendance to support his 10 students who were present and each had a wall featuring several of their works. Rohn, a well known figure in Miami’s art scene who started with Camillus two years ago said “each person is an individual and my job is to get them to express themselves and realize that the importance of art is expanding your capacity.”

Betty G. who is from Venezuela and arrived at Camillus House in December stood proudly by her four delicate pastel pieces on display. Aside from those featured at the show, she also has a series underway and are titled “Getting Out from the Darkness,” “Trying Out New Things,” “Growing Up” and “Better Together,” “I love painting,” she said, “I try new techniques. I treat my painting like a profession.”

She spoke very highly of Rohn who she says is helping her find a gallery to work with. As soon as Rohn opened the art room door at Camillus, she was there ready to create.

Barry G. whose work was also on display, recreated one of his pieces for all in attendance to see, setting up an easel and canvas making the work come to life before everyone’s eyes.

Barry’s artistic side is rich and extensive, having been a dancer touring with a professional company and acting as an extra in “Miami Vice,” the Miami-based television show as well as in films “Unholy” and “The Money Pit.”

Now, Barry paints and was part of an exhibition at Dot 51 Gallery this year and in this same exhibition at Amerant back in 2019. Barry explained his process saying “I enjoy the atmosphere and love putting two colors together. I want to be that person that creates art that moves people.” He said, “I used to watch Purvis Young paint in Overtown and we became friends.” Young’s murals permanently greet Overtown residents and are prominently displayed throughout the neighborhood including pieces housed at the Norwegian Cruise line Campus of Camillus. He’s a legend of Miami’s arts community.

Artist and Project Phoenix client Julia S. is 24 years old and a native of Brazil and while she’s working on obtaining her GED and a job, she’s also painting, a lot. She had four drawings on display at the show. Completely self-taught, Julia started drawing as a kid and has always worked with whatever resources she can find.

“I’ve used sharpies, eyeliner, whatever is available,” in fact a few of her paintings on display that evening she said incorporated those tools so “I could get the lines I needed and the right feeling for what I was trying to convey.” What Julia conveys through her work is her emotion, anguish and triumph.

Still other fellow artists and clients Daniel N. and Kenny H. credit the art therapy program with providing them an outlet for not just creativity but relaxation.

Daniel who is 67 began attending four months ago said “the art program helps me relax. It’s made me very happy and positive.” One of his pieces was a striking, colorful work displayed in a large wood frame, prominently displayed in the main hallway.

Kenny has a richer artistic side having taken art classes in high school in Houston, TX. He came to Miami in 2021 and in 2022 started attending art therapy classes.

“I used to come to Miami a lot, came here for like 15 years,” he said. He comes from Miami Rescue Mission to attend the classes at Camillus House.

As the event wrapped up and several of the pieces were marked with red dots as sold, Camillus House Board Member and Amerant Vice President of Consumer Banking David Boerger boasted “so much great art on display on the walls here.”

That was followed by Camillus House CEO Hilda Fernandez echoing those sentiments saying “if you’re not inspired tonight, you’ll never be inspired. I’m inspired! Giving us a chance to shine the light on all who live under our roof is exceptional.”

Read more about Barry G. a Camillus Day Center alumni here

By: Josie Gulliksen

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