The Wabi-Sabi Boat
March 15, 2018

On a chilly Friday afternoon in February, the community room at our Prospect Place women’s transitional housing community was bustling with excitement. Tenants and CUCS’s Therapeutic Art Instructor, Jennifer Bailey, were getting ready for their biweekly art session, happily distributing paints, brushes, and canvases around a large table. For the next two hours, the room would become a whirlwind of creativity, story telling and laughter.

Art can have a tremendous impact on people, especially those in recovery or going through difficult times. It can act as an outlet for emotions and help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. For residents at many of our programs, art can be the perfect medium for self expression.

Jennifer has been teaching classes at five of CUCS’s programs since December 2016. Each class gives residents space to be open, curious and playful, says Jennifer. Some classes have a community-based project, others facilitate conversation, and some, like the one at Prospect Place, have a mixed studio format.

The group at Prospect Place has steadily been growing since its inception, says Jennifer. Each participant works on their own pieces, whether it is a painting, drawing, or even poetry. However, there was one collective and ongoing piece that the group is most excited to share.

“It is the Wabi-Sabi Boat,” explained a group member, proudly displaying a boat crafted out of Popsicle sticks. In its carriage are a variety of figures made out of wire, beads, yarn and other materials.

A previous resident was working on a sculpture, the group explained, and upon finishing the project, she was convinced she had done it wrong and wanted to throw it out and start over. Group members reassured her to keep it and pointed out that the little sculpture looked like a boat. They decided to each make figures of themselves to add to the boat, along with a life vest hanging off of the side.

A few sessions later, a woman came to teach the group origami and introduced them to the term Wabi-Sabi. Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese world view centered on the idea that there is beauty in imperfection. The word struck the group, and immediately they decided to name the little boat “The Wabi-Sabi Boat.” The boat continues to evolve with the group, adding a new passenger with each new member. Each figure is incredibly unique and creative, illustrating the personality and spirit of the person it represents.

Jennifer says these supportive communities develop in all of her groups. In each, she enjoys watching people making connections between their projects and their lives and feeling empowered by the freedom to express themselves. She hopes to expand the groups to other CUCS programs and spread the joy it brings to staff and residents alike.