If you are a teen or young adult interested in AIRY, please see the Teen and Young Adult page in the menu for more info.
DONATIONS: Please help us make this valuable program a sustainable resource in Berkshire County. Every dollar you can contribute goes directly to helping the next generation, not only survive, but thrive. To make a contribution please scroll down to the bottom of this page.
Mission: Arts in Recovery for Youth (AIRY) is an arts and skills based suicide prevention program for youth ages 13-24, designed by art therapist and attempt survivor, Marney Schorr. AIRY provides no cost, equal opportunity expressive arts programming to teens, young adults and their families. Participation in AIRY creates a sense of safety, belonging, hope and empowerment for young people who are at risk for suicide. Through the program´s leadership component, youth engage in community collaboration and use the arts to make a difference in society, to inspire, educate, and promote social justice.
AIRY focuses on social and emotional learning and creative youth development through the expressive arts, peer support, dialectical behavior therapy and community building. It’s hybrid model is innovative and informed by suicidology, as well as trauma-informed and evidence based best practices.
Since 2017, AIRY has served over 150 youth with evidenced- based practices and measurable outcomes. For example, a three year study by Schorr (2017-2020) with 16 teens and 13 young adults measured variables for suicide risk before and after completing a four month period in the AIRY program. Initial risk factors included 55% (1 out of every 2 participants) having at least one prior suicide attempt which significantly elevated their risk. Information was gathered by numerical weekly self-report. On average, suicidality was reduced by 77% after 8 weeks in the program, reduced by 86% after four months in the program, and reduced by 95% after a year or more in the program, with many youth in full remission. Reductions in risk factors for suicide included significant decreases in urges to self harm and feelings of self hate, hopelessness, emotional pain and burdensomeness.
Participation in AIRY creates a sense of belonging, hope and empowerment for adolescents and young adults. Members who complete the initial program are eligible to transition into our other art therapy groups (Step Up, Expressive Arts Leadership, Digital Art) as well as internships, event planning and employment within the program.
Teen Skills Groups
This group teaches basic coping skills adopted from art therapy and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) as well as best practices in suicide prevention, anti-bullying and alternatives to self harm. Skills include safety, nonjudgmental acceptance via mindfulness, emotion regulation, finding a middle path for balancing logic and emotions, distress tolerance and self soothing, peer support and building healthy relationships. Skills are also taught in body image, sleep and nutrition and problem solving family conflict. Modalities include drawing and painting, collage, clay sculpture, poetry, fiber arts, digital art and more. This group focuses on stabilization, and includes new and mid level returning members.
Young Adult Skills Groups
This group reinforces basic coping skills adopted from art therapy and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) as well as best practices in suicide prevention and alternatives to self harm. Skills include completing safety plans, nonjudgmental acceptance via mindfulness, managing emotions, finding a middle path for balancing logic and emotions, and more specific coping skills for anxiety and depression. This group also focuses on young adult related issues such as planning future goals, managing a job and college related stressors as well as setting and maintaining boundaries in relationships. Modalities include drawing and painting, collage, clay sculpture, poetry, fiber arts, digital art and more. This group focuses on stabilization, and includes new and mid level returning members.
Music, Poetry and Art Therapy Group (open to all ages)
This new group will primarily use the sensory experience of sound and music as a modality to incorporate DBT skills into youth´s day to day lives. Youth will learn to use musical instruments and songs to self soothe, and to write and reflect on song lyrics as a creative outlet as well as give visual representation in art making of their experience of music. Youth will work individually and collaboratively making music in the studio and have a guest mentor musician to assist them. No prior experience with music is necessary. Studio instruments are provided including ukulele, hand drums, tambourines, shakers, harmonicas, rain sticks, and thumb piano. Youth are also welcome to bring their own instruments.
Step Up Groups
This group provides a brief review of skills learned in earlier groups and teaches new skills in choice, mastery and control. Group members are invited to bring their own topics to the group which lead to group cohesion and peer bonding experiences. Skills taught in this group include strategies for behavior change, setting small realistic goals, family dynamics including resolving conflict and working toward individuation. Additional skills may be taught in various topics brought to the group by its members. Modalities include drawing and painting, collage, clay sculpture, poetry, fiber arts, digital art and more. This group focuses on deeper issues that are relevant to clients and a larger more holistic sense of the future.
Expressive Arts Leadership Group
This group provides skills in creative youth development and youth leadership. The focus of this group is on building independence and fostering a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. The group members plan their own projects and have guest mentors to guide them in expressing their voices particularly around social justice issues. The group culminates in planning and preparing for an annual event. Modalities include projects in studio art, digital art, animation and film production, music, poetry, and performing arts.
Digital Art Group
This group meets online via Zoom and focuses on the therapeutic benefits of digital art-making in the form of scenes, characters, anime, and animation. Members are taught new ways to create art on their laptop or tablet by a Digital Artist with master expertise and digital art therapy training. Members who prefer drawing on paper or painting on canvas are also invited to participate from home. AIRY’s Digital Art Therapy Group incorporates skills in safety, mindfulness, managing emotions, building relationships, and peer support.
AIRY also includes resources for families about suicide prevention, safe talk and safety planning, and strategies to prevent self harm. As part of our community building model, AIRY collaborates with organizations in the arts, youth development, and suicide prevention such as art galleries, dance troupes, performing arts theatres, filmmakers, fiber artists, and nature-based day trips.
AIRY is held in a private art studio setting at an artists´ collective in downtown Pittsfield known as NUarts Studios and Gallery. AIRY uses a side entrance at 21 Union St. In the studio, you will find as many art materials as you can imagine. And if we don´t have it, we can probably get it. We offer materials for fine art, sculpture, sandplay, collage, 3D assemblage, fiber arts, jewelry making, fuse beads, rock painting, and much more. Our studio is an LGBTQ+ safe space co-created by its teens and young adults. We have sensory aides and plenty of space, blankets and pillows. We maintain group rules that include safe talk, respect and a judgment-free zone.
Our History & Development
Arts in Recovery for Youth began development in the fall of 2016 in response to a rise in suicide rates among youth in Berkshire County. We came together as a community to address the problem. AIRY met with interested youth, parents, educators, school adjustment counselors, child and adolescent clinicians, youth development leaders, non-profit organizations, expressive arts therapists and local area artists to form what has become a movement of hope and inspiration.
The community showed such an incredible response to this initiative allowing us to triple in size in our first six months. The 150+ young people who have come through the door have helped us co-create a unique art-based safe space to build hope and belonging, and have an outlet to discharge suicidal thoughts and emotions. Their leadership pushed the program forward into new directions, and created a momentum across the county. They have used the arts to make a difference in society, to inspire, educate, and break stigma.
In 2018 the AIRY program was recognized by the Massachusetts Statehouse for its excellence in leadership of suicide prevention, and has won four award including citations from Senator Hinds and State Rep Tricia Farley-Bouvier. Founding Director, Marney Schorr, was invited to author a book about art therapy and suicide prevention with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and to lead and train an international audience in arts-based suicide prevention.
AIRY has grown rapidly in the last six years, with an outstanding success rate. 100% of youth served have showed improvement. We learned that maintaining caring contact well beyond the initial program, is essential for continued youth success. We have developed a multi-level program, with ongoing participation in the arts with our many AIRY alumni.
Our Message of Hope to the Community
Suicide is not an easy topic, but we are having the conversation. And we hope you will too. Every person we meet has been affected by suicide in some way or other. We all know someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts or has experienced loss of a loved one to suicide. We read about it in the media. We see it on tv. Yet we don’t know how to talk about it. AIRY is a step forward to change that.
The commitment to recovery is evidenced by community members who have supported us, in spreading the word, showing up, fundraising, contributing art materials, mentorship and space.
The way forward is through this open-hearted collaboration, a collective of voices, passion and dedication to youth suicide prevention.
We hope you will get inspired and involved with our community model for youth suicide prevention. There is a place for everyone, for together, we are responsible for helping save young lives.
To have a conversation, contact Founding Director Marney Schorr at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (631) 697-8291.
Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ArtsinRecovery/
See our schedule and events on the Calendar page.
DONATIONS: Please help us make this valuable program a sustainable resource in Berkshire County. Every dollar you can contribute goes directly to helping the next generation, not only survive, but thrive.
To make a contribution, please send a check or use our donation button below:
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Your contribution is appreciated. Together we can make a difference.
Sincerely, Marney Schorr
Founding Director, Arts in Recovery for Youth
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Please make your check payable to:
Arts in Recovery, Attn: Marney Schorr, 311 North St, Studio 13, Pittsfield MA 01201
Arts in Recovery for Youth is supported by grants awarded by:
- ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act)
- Barrett Fund (BTCF)
- Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention
- Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Arts Build Community initiative with funding from the Barr Foundation
- Berkshire United Way and COVID relief partners
- City of Pittsfield
- Hardman Fund (BTCF)
- New England Grassroots Environment Fund
- Local Massachusetts Cultural Councils in the Northern Berkshires, Pittsfield, Lenox, Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge (MCC)
- The Golub Foundation/Price Chopper
- Berkshire Bank
- Massachusetts Cultural Council
- MCC Youth Reach
- Annamaria College
- MA Department of Public Health
- Northern Berkshire United Way
- South County Fund (BTF)
- Jewish Women´s Foundation
We are also supported by the fundraising efforts of CommonFolk, Berkshire Theatre Group, our fiscal sponsor Barrington Stage Company, and private donors in the community.
We would like to thank them and the following people and organizations who believe in our vision: Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire Pulse, Brien Center, Bushnell-Sage Library, CATA, Clinical Support Options, Colonial Theatre and BTG, Common Folk Artists Collective, Extra Special Teas, Kaplan Foundation, NUarts Gallery & Studios, Roots Teen Center, Senator Adam Hinds, State Representative Tricia-Farley Bouvier, Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Youth Zero Suicide Prevention Program.