As the coordinator of programs and outreach at the Hart Gallery, Brooke Montague closely works with Chattanooga's nonprofits to bring growth and art expression to the community. Family Promise is one of the organizations that partners with the Hart Gallery to provide art therapy for the families in transition.
Though classes are currently postponed, this is a long-standing partnership that has been very successful over the past 4 years. Montague holds a class at the Family Promise day center, teaching participants how to deal with their uncertain situation through art. She starts every session with a breathing exercise that aims to calm participants and leads them through a guided imagery trip. This technique helps them create a story in their mind that is relevant to the art they are about to make.
Once they are ready, Montague instructs them to express their past, present, or future through art—to create an image of what happened, how they are feeling, and/or where they see themselves going. Unfortunately, she is met with art resistance a lot of times. But Montague is patient. She encourages participants to imagine their inner child, to nurture them, and to empower them. There are no mistakes or judgments in her class. With her support, participants quickly start putting down color and imagery.
"How you approach art is how you approach life," says Montague. "If you are resistant or self-critical, it reflects. The beautiful thing about art is that when you're stressed, and it becomes challenging to verbalize your situation, you can communicate through the picture or piece. That's why art therapy is empowering."