Who Is
The Fragrant Muse?

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Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, United States
I'm a Creative Soul and Happy Person. I have a passion for my Family, Aromatics, Fairy Gardens, Pugs, SoulCollage, Miniature Worlds, Visual Journals.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Altered Car Project - Part II

There's a school not far from where I live called The Northwestern Academy.  Its a "juvenile justice facility" that describes itself as follows:

A residential treatment center for adjudicated delinquents placed by the Juvenile Courts across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The kids who live there ~ teenaged boys and girls ~ have seen it all:  abuse, drugs, violence, neglect.   The facility programs range from an intensive secure treatment unit to an "open program" where the residents are allowed to leave the premises for short periods to go out into the community.

So what does all this have to do with my altered car project?

The Academy had no art program and approached Mary Jo Tavares, the Director and creator of our fabulous YMCA Arts Center requesting a pilot art program for six boys in their "open program".  

Please click on the pictures to get a larger view.

The Front Porch of the Arts Center which is in a beautiful old house

Here's Mary Jo working with a group of kids in the Center's kitchen

Since I already offer creative journaling instruction at the Center, Mary Jo asked if I'd like to teach a class to this unique new group of kids, but didn't feel that art journaling lent itself to teen boys.  Instead, I told Mary Jo about my altered car project from the previous year.  I suggested that the boys might enjoy this project since it involved cars. Also, creating a positive visual reminder of their goals would be a healthy activity.  Mary Jo embraced the idea from the minute I described it! 

I began scouring thrift stores and ebay looking for just the right vehicles.  I wanted them to  be about the same size - approximately 18" - with lots of flat surface for collage and embellishment.    We set up a long table with magazines and every kind of ephemera imaginable as well as paint, glue, broken jewelry, wire, letters, tubes of every size and about 20 more dishes of interesting items that could be glued to their cars.

At first, the project didn't register with the boys.  They thought they were suppose to simply decorate the cars.  It was as if voicing their dreams was just too alien.  

So I gave them a homework assignment.  "Go home and fill out this questionnaire," I told the boys.  "Let your imaginations soar."

This is what they worked on :


What Will You Do With Your One,
Wild and Precious Life?

-Mary Oliver, American Poet

Dreams and Goals for Your Life

Goal setting is your compass.  If you go on a trip, you need a map.  Goal setting is your compass and roadmap to your future success.  Write out some of the dreams you have for your life.  Later you can get more specific with your plans, but for now, jot down a simple phrase, or even one word, to keep the idea from being forgotten.  And try not to censor your dreams!

1. Career:  What would be your dream job?
2. Artistic/Hobbies: 
Are there any artistic skills you would like to learn?  Paint, play the drums, sing, weld?
3. Learning/Education: 
What would you like to know more about?  Do you want to earn any degrees?Are there books you would like to read?  Do you want to learn another language or trade?
4. Recreation and Fun:  How do you want to enjoy yourself? Do you want to travel?  Where would you like to go?  Is there a sport you would like to learn?   Where would you like to go on vacation?
5. Relationships:  
What kind of relationships do you want to be in?  Do you want to get married? Have children?  Develop new friendships?

6. Home:  Where would you like to live?  What would your home look like?  An apartment?  A house in the country?  An RV?  Do you want to build your own house?  Live on a farm?  Live in an apartment in the city?
7. Financial:  
How important is money in your life?  What do you want to do with your money?  What do you want to buy?  A car?  A home?  A college education?  Save it?  Give it to charity?
8. Physical/Health:   Do you want to lose/gain weight?  Exercise? Stop smoking?  Eat healthier?
9. Spiritual/Personal Attitude:  
What are your spiritual goals?  Do you want to learn to meditate?  To be more peaceful?  Practice prayer?  Develop an attitude of gratitude?  Learn forgiveness?
10. Community
: Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?  Do you want to work in the Peace Corps?  As a missionary overseas?  With local groups?  Political and social activities?
11. Anything else:


Coming face to face with their own dreams by the simple act of filling out the paper seemed to be a critical turning point for these young men.  Now that they had a "map" to help point them in the direction of their desires, they became excited about their cars and had more clarity about what they needed to create to their life metaphors.

Mary Jo created backgrounds to showcase the cars.
Here are four of the six altered vehicles from the class.

If you work with students of any age, you are welcome to use my ideas to create something similar.  The next group that came in were six girls and I was not able to teach that class due to prior committments.  However, Mary Jo taught it and instead of cars, she used old shoes.  When they were finished, they looked something like this:

I feel privileged to have had the chance to work with "my" boys. 

They were polite, tidy, respectful and above all courageous enough to rise above their difficult beginnings and open themselves to the concept that "the past does not equal the future". 


Eliane Zimmermann said...

wow, how creative they are, real pieces of art!!!! congratulations to "your" boys from Ireland!!!!

Janet said...

I am so impressed! that is about the coolest thing I have seen in a long time! You are awesome! and i bet those boys will remember you for quite some time!

Hit 40 said...

Wow!! Outstanding work. The children now have a visual reminder to look at everyday to keep them focused on their dreams. Your a sweetheart!!

Lola England said...

What an amazing project to do with youth! That is a gift that will last them a lifetime! Thanks for sharing with them and us!!

An Open Heart said...

Phenomenal, what an amazing experience that must have been for them and you. I agree with Lola, what a gift, to inspire these kids who will truly apprectiate it!

JFKlaver said...

This is so amazing and inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

Holly said...

You and this? Totally fabulous! Oh, it's really a treat to see that we can be brought back by something so small as time and willingness to help for a couple of afternoons.

Thank you for sharing this!

Maggie May said...

This is undubitably undoubtably one of the most kick ass heartwarming things I've read in a long time. Your creatity is unique and gives back as much as it takes... I love what you did for these kids. Wow!

B said...

This is amazing! They end up with beautiful reminders of what they want!
When I was volunteering in Ecuador last year, it was hard to get the kids to write a story, they simply didn't know how to use their imagination, and they kept wanting to write about a fairytale or a TV series. It was hard for them to understand that they had to make it up themselves! We got there in the end, though, like you did with the cars.

spudballoo said...

Hello!!! am totally behind with bloggy reading...but catching up now.

Gosh this is quite a tale, and what wonderful, wonderful finished pieces they ended up with. You must have felt very proud to be involved with such a project...so creative too.

The YMCA looks stunning, so cheery...i want to pop in myself! x

Optimistic Pessimist said...

What an amazing idea! These kids have been through so much and realizing their potential and goals is such a big part in helping them to overcome everything they've faced in their lives!!!

Nanodance said...

This is such a wonderful and transformative project. Kudos. It must have felt great to see them embrace the idea and run with it.