Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2001
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2001 The Charlotte Observer
Author: Cleve R Wootson Jr


They Find Themselves Absorbed In Expressing Their Inner Thoughts

By CLEVE R. WOOTSON JR. In a community center in a low-income housing 
development in south Charlotte, a piece of art depicts a man sitting 
under a slanted rose with his head in his hands.

The man has curly brown hair, blue jeans and a yellow shirt. The art 
is in watercolor. The artist, a recovering substance abuser, is 

Recovering alcohol and narcotics abusers in the Southside Homes 
community have used art as a means of therapeutic expression. The 
program was part of the Community School of the Art's ArtsReach 
program. "The purpose of the visual arts division of the program was 
to provide substance abusers with an artistic outlet," says Daveed 
Korup, director of the program.

Nellie Ashford Rawls is a Charlotte artist who taught the classes on 
Thursdays at the Aurora Family Planning Clinic in Southside Homes, 
off South Tryon Street

"It worked out excellently," she says. "They would lose themselves in 
their work and that was my purpose."

With a grant from the Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control 
board, Rawls purchased ordinary and not-so-ordinary art supplies such 
as paint, brushes, boxes, floor tiles and clay to bring out the 
creativity in the members of the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics 
Anonymous groups that meet at the clinic.

"Many were very apprehensive in the beginning. Some said `I can only 
draw a stick figure,'" says Rawls. "I saw many who were apprehensive 
gain the confidence to draw."

The students drew with paint, charcoal, pencil and crayon. Many also 
made dolls from various products. Clay faces and limbs - fired in a 
kiln and painted in glossy colors such as peach and black - sit on 
chairs against walls. The dolls wear simple doll clothes such as 
plaid dresses and overalls.

The man with his head in his hands was painted on glass.

The works are based on a wide variety of subjects. One watercolor 
painting shows a mother holding her baby. A charcoal picture shows a 
woman with almond-shaped eyes framed by large glasses and curly hair. 
Twenty-four floor tiles cemented together show a brown cross embedded 
in black, purple and green.

Artwork is mixed with signs that show the 12 steps to recovery. On a 
windowsill, there are books on AA and NA. In a chair next to it, lie 
books on portrait painting and Gullah images.

Rawls says she developed a personal relationship with her students.

"I'm not an alcoholic and I'm not a drug user, but I felt they felt 
that I could walk in their shoes and see where they're coming from," 
she says. "I feel that we became friends more than me just being 
their instructor."
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