Crafting dreams

Students work with Positive Avenues to produce art therapy event


GETTING CRAFTY: Larry Coleman, with the intricate dream catcher he made at Positive Avenues on Friday, had been volunteering there for more than four years. © 2014 Jessie Tremmel, The Spectator

Story by Jessie Tremmel, Staff Writer

Around the side of The Community Table, there is a non-descript stairway with an overhang. Down the few stairs and into a spacious, cluttered room, people crowded around tables sharing the happenings of the day.

Positive Avenues is a drop-in facility for homeless or mentally ill people in Eau Claire. Last Friday at Positive Avenues, a group of six University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students orchestrated an art therapy event as a class project.

Erin Hanson, an Eau Claire student and intern at Positive Avenues, said between 20 and 30 people showed up to create dream catchers.

“The goal of the art project was to have everyone write a goal or something they care about on the dream catcher,” Hanson said.

Nicole Schultz, an Eau Claire communications professor, connected students in her Small Group Communications class with Positive Avenues, where she is on the advisory board. Students researched and produced an event to enhance community awareness of an issue.

Jean Minnich said she spends time daily at Positive Avenues. When she first went to Positive Avenues she was seeking answers about mental health issues. She got the information she needed, created new friendships and set a new goal. Minnich wants to open a facility similar to Positive Avenues to reach out to children.

“I originally wanted to find more out about mental health issues because my mother has a mental health issue and she wouldn’t talk to me about it,” Minnich said. “I am going to open up a program like this for children. My thinking is that if you help children with mental health issues, they will better be able to deal with it when they are adults.”

Anneke Brainerd, a peer specialist at Positive Avenues, said she appreciated the art therapy event because it brought people in. She said often people lose interest in the activities that she does daily so it is beneficial to have others come in to run an event.

“I was really psyched because we had more people back here than we have on a normal project and part of it was because it was built up, they knew somebody was coming in,” Brainerd said. “Anyone who is working here gets to be old, but when it is set up like this, there is participation and they are doing something they feel good about.”

When participants finished their dream catchers they went back to roaming around the room, with voices loud and cheery. Brainerd kept repeating, “Who would have thought that having a messed up life would someday come to this.”