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Leave your troubles on the wall

Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 12:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, March 25, 2013 12:15 p.m. CST
(Ty Rushing/Daily News)
Sara Hopkins isn't an artist, but she uses art to help her clients heal internally. She is pictured here with one of "The Walls" her clients use. She just finished preparing wall number three for use.

Sara Hopkins has never been much of a traditional person. She went to college to study Norwegian and economics, she has owned a dairy farm and now works as a licensed clinical social worker. She has a new approach to helping people heal: art.

“I’m not an artist. First off, I want to say that,” Hopkins said. “I used art in my counseling or therapy practice. The way I got into it is I have a tendency to think more in picture than I do in words. Feelings and emotions can come to me in a more visual format. As I was working on some things for myself, I would start drawing pictures instead of journaling.”

“I found that, as I was drawing pictures, I found that the pictures would lead to words and help me explore things more for myself,” Hopkins continued. “At the time, I was working with a lot of kids, who of course have problems expressing emotion and words. Traditional conversation doesn’t work as well with kids, so I was looking for other ways to try and help them with that.”

Just like that, an idea was hatched.  With the help of Nick Klepinger, a local sculptor, Hopkins acquired several Masonite boards and put them together to make a wall. She gave them three coats of primer and soon put her idea up to the ultimate test — kids.

Four years later, she has just finished priming her third board and her implementation of art therapy has become a success amongst her clients at her office at the Centre for Arts & Artists in Newton.

“(The Wall) it’s meant for visually expressing emotions,” Hopkins said. “When people first see it, they kind of experiment with how you get paint on there. Do you throw it? Do you use brushes? We’ve tried different things just to try and get the mechanics of putting things on the wall.”

After those initial experiments, Hopkins came up with a system that was designed to cater to each client’s specific therapeutic needs.

“For instance, a lot of the times what I will do is draw a line halfway across the board and have them paint above the line what people see in the world or how they feel in the world or how people see them above the surface,” Hopkins said. “And that line below, they paint what’s going on beneath the surface of what’s going on inside of you.”

“They can use colors, I’ve got feathers, paper all kinds of junk that they can put up there,” Hopkins continued. “They assign the meaning to those things. Red can mean one thing to one person and something else to another.”

One popular method has been making paint balls — balling up a piece of paper, covering it in paint and using it as a projectile on the board. Others just like to impersonate Jackson Pollack, and one person covered their bare feet in paint and walked on the wall.

Hopkins knows that this practice can seem odd to outsiders, but she said she gets results and is helping people work through issues, which is what she cares about most.

“One thing people like about it is, it’s kind of like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem,” Hopkins said. “People can kind of hand over their troubles and leave them on the wall. It’s a way of building community — they know that they are not alone. They can see that others have had troubles that they handed over to the wall too. It can stay there — you don’t have to carry it with you anymore.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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