The Lens & Pens Project conducted by Joy Jones provides creative expression workshops for individuals in care at Saint Elizabeths Hospital (SEH) in Washington, DC. Staff members at SEH judge the workshop series to be one of the most successful activities brought to the John Howard Pavilion, both therapeutically and artistically. In the first year of doing the poetry workshops, a man who had never smiled and seldom spoke began to do both as a result of these sessions. The program now includes painting and photography. This project has received funding from The DC Department of Mental Health, The DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Other individuals in care have had their words published or broadcast on the radio, and their artwork displayed in venues around the city, including The Department of Mental Health Forensic Training Conference, The Annual Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. Memorial Mental Health Conference, Church of the Pilgrim, The Court Urgent Care Clinic at DC Superior Court, and local art exhibits. The patients’ work is also regularly featured in their newsletter, Reflections.
Developing an identity as a writer, poet, rapper or other artist improves self-concept, and identifies them as an artist who has something desirable to contribute to the community and not just as a consumer of mental health services. Everyone benefits when they rejoin society having learned healthier outlets for the expression of their feelings and the use of their talents.