A MOVING Ballarat art exhibition has harnessed the creative energy of teenagers from backgrounds of neglect, family violence, drug abuse and abandonment.
Community service organisation Berry Street armed its young clients with spray cans earlier this year and now an exhibition of their work, Street, is on display at Wolveschildren Art Space in Humffray Street.
Berry Street’s manager of residential education and intensive case management services Warrick Remilton said what began as an initiative to combat vandalism grew into part of a healing process.
“We started with a four-week project and all the non-regulated art that was happening disappeared,” Mr Remilton said.
“Initially it was a bit of fun, but with art they can put themselves on the page without using words.
“As they’re doing it, it’s bringing up memories.”
Aged 14 to 17, the teenagers all became clients of Berry Street after becoming disengaged from mainstream education.
Mr Remilton said many of the teenagers did not feel ready for formal therapeutic treatment, but they could express themselves by using a spray can.
Working with professional artist and art therapist Linda Franklin, the teenagers learned to hone their skills in a productive environment, but it also prompted many to start talking about their lives.
Ms Franklin said the project had engaged youths who were “highly conditioned to fail” and not in formal schooling.
“The art program gives them an experience of how to use their amazing creative energy constructively,” she said.
“It’s very moving working with them.”
She said she hoped the public took the time to view the exhibition.
Street runs until Friday, November 29.