I was first introduced to First Aid Arts in 2014 after graduating with a BFA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had no idea what I was going to do with my degree and where it would take me. In my first year out of school it took me to Haiti two times. Initially I was there to take video documentation of an organization that was supplying water filtration systems on the North coast of the island in Saint-Louis-du-Nord. On that trip I met Beth Waterman who introduced me to the work she was doing with trauma victims in Haiti. She invited me to return on another trip where we would be using First Aid Arts and working with women who were victims of sex trafficking and abuse. Fast forward a couple months and I was getting certified in Dallas, Texas with an amazing group of healers at your First Aid Arts training. One month later I was using that training live in Port-au-Prince.
Fast forward again to being back in Milwaukee and figuring out how I could use my training locally in my own city. I started learning more and more bout how sex trafficking is happening right under our noses in the Midwest and newspapers were starting to call Milwaukee, “The Harvard of Pimp School”. I began doing weekly healing arts classes using the First Aid Arts curriculum with a group home of teenage girls who are trying to leave the sex trafficking industry. That evolved into me becoming certified to work in their group home with them as a caretaker, organizing a First Aid Arts training in Milwaukee for over 25+ beautiful individuals, and helping find ways for Milwaukee to use this amazing tool box in our hurting city.
Fast forward again to my own experience with art as a healing medium as I spent two years in and out of mental health programs and psychiatric hospitals trying to get a hold of my bipolar diagnosis. The art therapy programs that I encountered were not only life changing, they were life saving. The tools that I learned in those programs became my weapons for surviving. A groundwork to return to when things got tough. As I have continued healing I have reworked the way that I relate with other people living with trauma and shifted my capacity to be a care worker to more of a peer support role. Instead of operating in a place of being able to give care, I currently identify with the place of being able to share care and create space for mutual healing. Since I have been out of hospitals I have been trying to share everything I learned in a clinical setting so I can make it available in tangible ways. I do this via social media through writing and imagery and with in-person sensory workshops around the city that place an emphasis on carving out time for yourself and finding ways to slow down.
Participating in your training was an amazing step in my journey of using the arts as a healing tool. I am thrilled to partner with First Aid Arts to help continued emphasis on providing care and space for those that give care and space to others.
How Jenna Supports First Aid Arts as an Artist for Love
Not only does Jenna use her First Aid Arts tools and training to incorporate the arts into her own daily rhythm for self care, as well as inspiring her community to do the same, she also has partnered with us to sell some of her artwork in our shop. Every purchase made from the First Aid Arts shop enables us to teach more people about the toxic affects of trauma and how to use the arts and creativity as an effective antidote.
Jenna Knapp is an artist, author, curator, community arts organizer, and resident artist at the studio collective, Yours Truly, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Knapp has received the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for Emerging Artists, been a guest at international multidisciplinary residency programs in Amsterdam and London, and exhibited locally and nationally. She currently is an artist-in-residence at Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee, where she will be creating a walking meditation labyrinth that will weave through the property’s existing native prairie. She self-published her first book, “I Kept Things I Did Not Need”, in the summer of 2017. It is a collection of poetry, prose, photographs and archived material addressing the subjects of grief, loss, survival and the different evolutions of healing. She continues making work and hosting events relating to mental-wellness and self-love through her current projects: The Self Care Studio and Squash Seasonal Support System.