ACCESS offers canvas for student expression through Art4Healing program

ACCESS Art4Healing student artwork
A student from the Orange County Department of Education’s ACCESS program created his abstract art piece in an Art4Healing workshop.

Students from the Orange County Department of Education’s Alternative Education division — or ACCESS — are finding a canvas for emotional expression and healing through weekly workshops on campus. 

ACCESS’ partnership with Art & Creativity for Healing’s program, Art4Healing, offers students an avenue to explore their emotions through abstract art. This initiative not only provides an outlet but also creates a safe and supportive environment for teenagers to express themselves.

“Our curriculum is designed for self-investigation,” Laurie Zagon, founder and director of Art & Creativity for Healing, said. “We give pain a voice and meaning by providing expressive abstract art workshops in support of emotional healing that fosters mental health.”

ACCESS' Art4Healing Workshop

Since its inception in 2022, the program has recorded over 5,000 students’ participation. Although attendance at the weekly sessions is encouraged, students are not obliged to attend, recognizing that some may not yet feel prepared to participate fully.

“Art4Healing provides a non-verbal outlet for expressing emotions that may be difficult to articulate verbally,” said ACCESS Principal Kenneth Ko, representing Area 1 and Area 3. “Students can explore and communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

ACCESS stands for Alternative, Communit​y and Correctional Education Schools and Services. The OCDE program provides a wide range of educational opportunities and support to thousands of secondary students each year, including many who face unique challenges and are at risk academically.

The Laguna Hills-based nonprofit organization created the Art4Healing method as an approach to student development. With its trained and certified facilitators leading the sessions, the program guides students through art exercises, fostering deep reflection on their personal experiences, challenges and triumphs.

“I liked that I can express my emotions without having to talk about them,” a Harbor Learning Center student said. “This workshop is helpful in understanding how I feel and to know it’s okay.”

Art4Healing workshops are available to all students at ACCESS program school sites, with sessions held once a week. The day and time vary at each site, ensuring accessibility for those who are interested.

For additional information about OCDE’s Alternative, Communit​y, and Correctional Education Schools and Services, visit the ACCESS program webpage.