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Transform Traumas Through Art Therapy

Windward Community College’s sexual violence prevention campaign includes a workshop to explore healing through its expression in art from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in Hale Palanakila Art Studio 210.

Led by Kailua resident Esther Wilhelm, the art therapy workshop is free, materials will be supplied and no previous art training is needed. To reserve a seat, call 235-7447.

Wilhelm is living with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of rape, abuse and abandonment. Most recently, she was severely injured in a hit-and-run car accident. She seeks to share her story of healing with others through art.

It has been about a year and a half since Wilhelm walked into her first art class, and her trauma and hurt from the past came out while working on her first assignment, “Postcards from the Edge.”

“I didn’t look at it as being brave, it was confidential at first,” Wilhelm said with a smile. “But now I know it’s helping other people, so why not just let it be, let it do what it’s supposed to do?”

During those classes, she said she has learned things about people, and there is a closeness and unspoken understanding and respect for one another. It’s not about who is a better painter or who’s more talented. “You realize the art is bigger. What you’re doing is more important than just paintings or photographs. It’s like when you choose to be brave, and then everyone else chooses to be brave … only when people get open can they get help.”

She felt vulnerable at first, but then looked at it differently – as if she were painting her own personal journal.

“If people want to get better and overcome trauma, if they do the work, anything is possible.”

Wilhelm’s art therapy sessions have indeed affected people, according to her manager, Richelle Kim. “Why she continues to go out there and tell the story over and over,” Kim said, “is because she touches people’s lives, and every time someone hears it, they are helped and they are touched.

“Because she is so open and because she’s so willing, other people open up too,” Kim said.