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Ford City workshop uses art to help victims of bullying

| Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, 12:16 a.m.

Two Ohio artists will team up with the Ford City Library on Friday and Saturday to help victims of bullying find expression and healing through art.

Professional artists Paul Richmond and Linda Regula will lead the free workshops. They cofounded the You Will Rise Project about three years ago with a website that allows people to submit their creative works dealing with the pain they have experienced from being bullied.

“The artwork that these people make speaks louder than words,” Richmond said. “We want to give them space to speak out, to express themselves and help them realize they are not alone.”

He and Regula accept art submissions on www.youwillriseproject.com from around the world and have so far only conducted workshops in central Ohio.

But they decided to make a special trip to Ford City at the request of Richmond's sister-in-law, Tiffany Harkleroad, a library assistant.

“I know some local kids impacted by bullying who have harmed themselves — even to the point of taking their own life,” Harkleroad said.

That's the kind of outcome Richmond and Regula are striving to prevent.

“I remember hearing stories of young people committing suicide, and I wondered how I didn't become one of those statistics,” Richmond said.

He still recalls the feeling of alienation he felt as a child and remembers the taunts and name-calling he endured as a nerdy, shy and unathletic fourth-grader.

At that time, Regula was his art teacher, and she encouraged him to paint his experience. So he painted a puzzle with each piece bearing an image of a child stick figure. The puzzle was incomplete with one piece that did not fit. On that separate and out-of-place piece, he painted an image of himself, sitting all alone.

That childhood painting was part of a local art exhibit and received an award. He was amazed at how other kids related to it and recalls overhearing other students say how it reminded them of how they often felt.

“When I made that painting, I didn't think anyone else would get it,” he said.

That experience helped him realize the way in which art can help victims communicate and heal.

The library's Art Against Bullying project is for ages 11 through 20, and all materials will be provided. Richmond notes that the workshops are not limited to visual artistic expression. Participants can also choose to express themselves through creative outlets like writing, poetry and music.

“If they have something to say, we'll help them find a way to say it,” he said.

Those interested in participating should call, stop by the library or click on the event link on Ford City Library's Facebook page.

The final day of the workshop is Saturday at 3 p.m., just in time for the library's second Annual Summer Arts Festival near the gazebo in the John B. Ford Memorial Park.

The festival will showcase work from student artists and professional artisans. There will be food booths and a live performance by the Library Players and the Muddy Creek band.

When the festival ends at 7 p.m., there will be an exhibit of works produced during the Art Against Bullying Project.

“People can show support and get a deeper understanding of bullying,” Richmond said. “It can be a healing experience for everyone involved.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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