"Kaleidoscope of Emotion," artwork created by 13-year-old Victoria at the Highmark Caring Place.

New Sewickley art exhibit gives a glimpse into childhood grief

Beginning this Saturday, a unique and touching art exhibit will be on display at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley. A Journey Through Grief showcases artwork made by children and teens who have experienced the death of a loved one. Each of these young artists has attended the free peer support program offered at the Highmark Caring Place in both the Warrendale and Pittsburgh locations.

The artwork—paintings, drawings, sculpture and textile art—provides a genuine glimpse into the grief journeys of children and teens. Pieces like The Invisible String, by Marlo, age 9, depicts an “invisible string,” which always connects her to her father. In Kaleidoscope of Emotion (featured photo above), 13-year-old Victoria uses colors to express her feelings and the range of her emotions she experienced after losing her older sister. Each of the pieces provides a unique perspective on the complex grieving process—from the chaos and confusion of loss to the hope and healing gained through the support of Caring Place peers.

In fact, art-making plays a large role in the grief work that the children and teens do at the Caring Place. The young people regularly use many types of art as a means to share the stories of their losses, to express their feelings and to share memories. The emphasis is placed on the art-making process itself and not the final product.

“At the Caring Place, art helps the children explore tough questions that they may not yet be ready to talk about,” says Krista A. Ball, program manager and child grief specialist at the Caring Place. “When creating art, children and teens are free from the barriers that can accompany verbal communication. When there are no words to express how one feels, these feelings can be expressed in colors, shapes and images.”

Over 100 children and teens participated in the art show. The youngest artist is 21 months old and the oldest is 17. In addition to the artwork created by individuals, there are also group pieces, including a memory quilt made by several families at the Caring Place, as well as artwork created by some of the volunteers.

Ball adds that there is much to be learned about the grief journey of a child. “Viewers can expect to be moved and inspired as they are offered a glimpse into the grief journeys of children who have lost a loved one,” she says.  In particular, a grieving family or child who attends the exhibit will be able to see that they are not the only ones going through a difficult loss. “They may even be able to identify with some of pieces in the show and know that another child of their own age understands what they are going through.” The exhibit, however, is sure to be a unique and rewarding experience for all families and children.

A Journey Through Grief will be on display at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts from Saturday, August 22nd to Friday, September 18th. There will also be an opening reception, which is free and open to the public, on Saturday, August 22nd from 5 to 7 p.m. Sweetwater’s gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For evening and weekend hours, call 412-741-4405.

Featured photo: “Kaleidoscope of Emotion,” artwork created by 13-year-old Victoria at the Highmark Caring Place.