Arts Together Brings The Healing

Abiba Biao | May 15th, 2023

Arts Together Brings The Healing

Culture & Community  |  Education & Youth  |  Southern Connecticut State University  |  Arts & Culture  |  Visual Arts  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative  |  Public Health  |  Arts & Anti-racism  |  Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant Program


Kennedy Godfrey. Abiba Biao Photos.

Six-year-old Kennedy Godfrey held a thin paintbrush in her hand, waiting to take the first stroke. She knew she wanted a variety of colors—glitter-flecked purple, shades of blue, maybe her signature pink. Soon her paint tray was filled with a variety of colors,  ready to take on the blank canvas in front of her. 

Kennedy, a first grader at Booker T. Washington Academy, let her creative juices flow free at the Arts Together Healing Program at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), held on a recent Friday afternoon at SCSU. Hosted by the nonprofit All Together Healing Inc., the program seeks to engage kids with a different art medium every Friday, according to art coordinator Jade Streater.

The workshop began in February, and continued until students’ last session earlier this month. It received support from the city’s Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant Program. 


Kennedy Godfrey and Morgan Godfrey selecting paint from Jade Streater.

Streater handed out the paint and led the lesson Friday, with a focus on name-specific art.  The program is not only meant to be an exercise for students, she said, but for parents as well.

“It’s not just the students that attend, it's the parents too, which keeps everything fun and on topic,” she said.

For her, it’s also a way to give back. When Streater isn’t teaching art therapy for the Arts Together Healing program, she’s creating new lesson plans and topics for the students. Outside of the program, she is a part time face painting artist, works in facilities at Yale University and runs her small business Lady J. The Artist. 

She highlighted how different colors can evoke different emotions. The feelings that people often equate with colors may actually have multiple meanings, she said.

“Some people be thinking black is very depressing or whatever but there's other meanings for black,” she said. “It determines strength, it determines power.” 


Morgan Godfrey painting while her mom Kortney Jenkins watches.

Kennedy’s sister, Morgan Godfrey, is a sixth grader at Betsey Arts Ross Magnet School and no stranger to art. As she sketched in pencil Friday, she said that her  favorite things to draw are flowers. To her, art doesn’t need to have an inherent meaning; it can be  a way to pass the time and do something enjoyable. 

Her mom, Kortney Jenkins, said that The Arts Healing Program is an enjoyable space to let her kids experiment with art. Streater is also her cousin, meaning that there’s a family connection.  

“I mean, they see Jade all the time. But this [art] is Jade's element,” Jenkins said, “They see her as just a cousin at home with kids, but in here, they get to be free and get to do what she does.”

Co-founder and treasurer of All Together Healing Inc., Shenira Billups decided to join the fun, picking up an orange marker for her own piece of name art. Billups knows the power of art and its positive effects on mental health and development, she said—she is an adjunct psychology professor at SCSU and a licensed professional counselor at her own practice, Mental Growth and Internal Healing (MGIH).

Stationed out of Connecticut and New York, All Together Healing Inc. was founded in 2020, after Founder and CEO Andre Henry became an amputee. He had the idea to start a non-profit alongside Billups and fellow co-founder Patrice Forbes.



Billups said  the work resonates with her because of how impactful learning is for her 9-year-old son Malachi, who is on the autism spectrum.

“For him engaging with his environment means a lot for him as far as learning,” She said. “If it means that much for him, imagine these other youth who are needing to get out and to understand. They need the learning space and they need the involvement.” 

Billups also has big plans for All Together Healing, she said. To have more control and creative direction, the non-profit plans to open its own facility in the future. It aims to manage staff and provide a sustainable safe space for families and kids, especially for those that live in unsafe spaces.

She said that outreach and community engagement is still difficult. As a non-profit, All Together Healing seeks out grants to fuel its initiatives, but sometimes struggles to get the word out about programs. 

The constant search for funding can be strenuous at times, Billups said, so she urges people to learn about alternative avenues to support local nonprofit work and uplift community programs.

“Whether you give up your wallet or give up your time, do something, engage, because it [community programs] comes from somewhere,” she said. “That reciprocity is what healthy relationships are all about.”

New Haven Art Culture Tourism_colorThis article is a collaboration with the City of New Haven's Department of Arts, Culture & Tourism, which is supporting young writers who cover recipients of the 2023 Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grants. 

Abiba Biao is a graduate of the Arts Council's Youth Arts Journalism Initiative and has stayed on with the Arts Paper as a freelance writer and photographer. She is currently a rising sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).