MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gun violence, the pandemic and a teacher strike have made it a tough year for students, especially in north Minneapolis. But a program called “Art is my Weapon” is trying to help them heal from the trauma, one brush stroke at a time.

The nonprofit organization visited Patrick Henry High School for its program “Healing HeARTS” for its second session this school year.

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“It’s like, calming and relaxing,” senior Mia Campbell said.

She was among the students in the class given a blank canvas to paint whatever they chose.

“A lot of times I like to intertwine art with my activism, because I feel like that’s a good outlet,” she said.

Students in Community Connected Academy at Patrick Henry High School are learning the power of abstract art to address trauma.

“I think last school year we lost 13 students. Not all due to gun violence, not all were, but a chunk was including Daunte Wright, so we’ve been impacted as a school community,” school counselor Alex Leonard said.

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Leonard said art is a crucial tool for students dealing with disruptions, from social unrest and COVID to an educator’s strike.

“It was a little stressful because graduation is right around the corner, and we couldn’t get any of the work done,” senior Richard Ambers said.

For Ambers, painting brings joy.

“Just let your creativity run wild,” he said.

“Young people have the ability to do a lot of amazing things through creative outlets, and we need more,” Art is My Weapon executive director Nikki McComb said.

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Art is My Weapon is planning to host a public exhibition to showcase the student artwork, sometime this summer.

Kirsten Mitchell