Evelyn came in at 9 a.m., all smiles and ready to draw even though class doesnt begin until this afternoon. Evelyn usually comes for the Greeting Card class, where she quietly draws the same face over and over again: two circles for eyes, one for a nose, and one for a mouth. "Do you want to color them?" the instructor suggests. "No," Evelyn says. Today she is looking through old National Geographic magazines to cut out pictures that catch her eye.
Evelyn is diagnosed as mentally retarded and does not know her birthday. She sits near Teiko, a former medical researcher at the University of California at Davis who takes medication for paranoid schizophrenia and depression. Teiko has been coming to the Womens Wisdom Project, a nonprofit arts organization in Sacramento, California, for five years. She remarks how lucky she is to have "psychosis" since it allows her to come to Wisdom.
The mission of the Womens Wisdom Project is to provide a secure environment in which women can enter into a personal transformation process through the creative arts. Through this process they are able to experience self-worth and dignity in a creative community and are strengthened to shape their own lives and connect with the resources they need to break free from patterns of oppression. Classes at the Womens Wisdom Project are free, supplies are provided, and no experience is necessary.
Wisdom has come a long way since its beginning in 1991. Originally held in a local homeless shelter and founded by Laura Ann Walton, a Sister of Mercy who realized that souls, as well as stomachs, needed to be fed, Wisdom now rents a building that has a small kitchen, kiln, and ample storage space.
In December 1998, Wisdom artists created a mural that spans one side of the building and reads, "Reflections, Created with Hope and Vision."
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