Justin Garcia’s traveling exhibit ‘captures the power of art therapy’

Published 7:46 am Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The traveling exhibition “If These Walls Could Talk” is on display at the Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center, 1001 Ryan St.

“If These Walls Could Talk” artistically tells the stories of abused children from around the world.

Houston-based international artist Justin Garcia collaborated with the non-profit Orphaned Starfish Foundation (OSF) to conduct the project.

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OSF supports orphans, victims or abuse, survivors of trafficking, indigenous children, at-risk youth and refugees to break the cycle of abuse and poverty. The organization provides technology-based programming that gives these children education, skills and job-training that will help them succeed in life.

Garcia traveled to 33 countries that OSF is present in — there are a total of 80 programs set up worldwide — to speak to children. The goal of the project is to create unique art that platforms the children’s emotions. According to Garcia’s artist site, the kids were asked a questions: “What do you want the world to know about you?”

OSF Founder and Executive Chairman Andy Stein said in a video that the installation captures the power of art therapy.

“Being able to express themselves in the arts gives them a real opportunity to heal from what they’ve been through,” he said.

In the same video, Garcia said that he was connected with OSF’s mission through Stein. Their goals to help children aligned with the intention of his art, to give kids a voice.

“They get to say whatever they want knowing the world will hear what they have to say.”

The art is abstract. On pieces of wall, Garcia utilized color, shape and quotes from the children. Each piece is backlit and synced with audio of the kids speaking.

The exhibition has created international awareness about global child abuse directly through the participating children’s experiences.

“There’s an underlying pattern, an underlying voice that being said. They’re finally getting heard. They get to say that they’re making an impact,” he said. “They know that they have value. If they can do that, they can do anything.”

“If These Walls Could Talk” is available for viewing until August 18.

Admission to the exhibit is free. The Historic City Hall is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.