Affirmation Paintings: After-School Workshop 1 of 12 at the Red Hook Initiative

March 27, 2015
Friday after-school programming was in full swing at the Red Hook Initiative (RHI) in Brooklyn. Pizza and salad was available for youth to enjoy and music was coming from the main room as the students unwinded. For the middle-school aged young women of RHI's Mirrors of Strength group, Arts & Dreams shared the first of 12 workshops. Our activities focused on creating art that empowers self-love and hope, led by Arts & Dreams' co-founders Laura Baran and Patricia Geremia. Once Laura shared her background challenges growing up and then making art to heal herself after her brother's suicide, a rich experience took place. Through discussion and painting, the group seemed to express a real understanding of their worthiness of living the life of their dreams, and engaging in acts of creative kindness to self. They painted personal positive affirmations on stretched canvas, discussed why they created their art and spoke loving words to themselves in a mirror. A big thanks to Deanna Cherry and Jade Elias for making this workshop series possible! Also to everyone at the Red Hook Initiative and all of our generous donors for their support. 
Photos by Patricia Geremia


Painting Affirmations with House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company

We gave an empowering art workshop on April 6, 2014, with volunteers from House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company, an organization that provides free dance lessons to young people faced with homelessness and poverty. Together we discussed ways to use art to help young people love themselves using different art forms to encourage and empower children to live their dreams.

The House of the Roses volunteers created their own affirmation art on stretched canvases. They intend to bring affirmations and visual art to the children they work with. And we did mirror work - saying something loving to ourselves while looking into a mirror.

Coming into spring in the northeast, it was wonderful to sit outside and spend a meaningful afternoon in Jersey City with House of the Roses, captured in these photos through the lens of Arts & Dreams co-founder Patricia. This was Arts & Dreams' first workshop outside of NY in Laura Baran's home state of New Jersey. Thanks to Lauren Fakete and everyone at House of the Roses, for all that you do to help young people!

What's the most important thing you learned in Arts & Dreams?

Arts & Dreams just completed a series of 7 empowering art workshops with middle-school youth at Red Hook Initiative!

In every workshop we explored self-love and hope through creative projects. 
Great news: The anonymous feedback we collected from RHI youth and staff after each Arts & Dreams workshop was super positive! Here's a sampling:

What's the most important thing you learned in Arts & Dreams?
  • “I am unique.”
  • “How to draw”
  • “Doing art is the most amazing thing.”
  • “To care for myself”
  • “How to love yourself”
  • “It made me feel loved.”
  • “I like that we do things to feel good about ourself.”
  • “It was mad fun. I enjoyed it very much.”
  • “I like the information, because I can use this information in every day life.”
  • “I am good at art.”
  • “That there are 7 different ways to feel good again.”
  • “Always think positive.”
  • “How not to say bad things to people”
Will you use positive affirmations/thoughts in the future?
YES 75% 
Will you say nice things to yourself when you look in the mirror?
YES 83% 
Would you like to see Arts & Dreams come back again? 
100% of students and staff said YES.

We loved working with RHI youth and were amazed at how receptive they were to new ideas and expressing their creativity! Click the links to see more.
Week 2 – Self Portraits
Week 4 – Gratitude Journals
Week 6 – Universe Boxes
Week 7 – Dream Boards

Final Workshop in Our Series of 7 with Youth at Red Hook Initiative: Dream Boards

On March 5, 2014, we shared the final Arts & Dreams empowering art workshop in our series of 7 with middle-school youth during their after school programming at Red Hook Initiative

We reviewed the previous six workshops and what we accomplished together - learning to love ourselves, being kind, using our creativity and dreaming big! Everyone has something unique to offer and our role is to discover what our unique gift that brings us joy and to share it with others. 
Creating a Dream Board is a visual reminder of what we love and want in life, which helps invite our big dreams into reality. We provided stretched canvases, acrylic paints, photos, appliques and images from magazines. We printed some of Patricia's photos from our previous workshops for the youth to keep or use on their Dream Board. 

Before we wrapped up with mirror work, we had two more surprises: cupcakes from Billy's Bakery and a special reading of the Arts & Dreams book draft. While they snacked, we explained we're writing a book - which no one else has seen yet - about the topics we've discussed and the art we created during our workshops: how we can use creativity to empower ourselves, to dream big dreams, and to truly love who we are. We are grateful that our buddies at RHI agreed to give a listen and an affirming nod to our dream creation in draft form!

It’s been a beautiful journey with RHI this winter, and we remain so inspired by the amazing group of youth. We were there to educate, and we wound up learning so much from you all. Thank you, Samora Coles, Jade Elias, Ricky Santana and everyone Red Hook Initiative. Onward, youth! You're all unique geniuses and we love you!


Paintings to Boost Self-Love with Local Youth at the Red Hook Initiative

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, one of the NYC neighborhoods hit hardest was Red Hook, Brooklyn. Arts & Dreams was fortunate to team up with the Red Hook Initiative, an organization in Red Hook dedicated to empowering local youth to co-create their community, and we visited to share a workshop about empowerment through art.

We talked about healing self-esteem issues and expressing love and appreciation through painting. Local youth and facilitators created their own affirmation paintings with positive words about themselves and their dreams.

Talking nicely to ourselves, in our mind or out loud, can have a big impact. It can return a state of ease into our bodies. After painting, we passed Patricia's silver hand mirror around the room and everyone said something nice to themselves while looking into their own eyes. For some, this was their first time painting, and it was a particular honor for us to introduce that experience. Everyone made incredible work to take home and remind themselves of their worthiness.
Patricia captured these moments beautifully, as always. A big thank you to our volunteers (Mom and daughter) Adriane and Brooke Adler! And a huge virtual hug to Jade Elias and everyone at the Red Hook Initiative for welcoming us into your inspiring organization yesterday! Can't wait to come back.

Painting Affirmations with Students & Faculty at Passages Academy

The Arts & Dreams team went back to Passages Academy, the New York City Department of Education school for incarcerated and detained youth, in the Bronx on November 20, 2012. We each spoke for a few moments about how art has helped us move through our personal life challenges. We also spoke about the power that affirmations, positive sentences that feel good, have to encourage a healthier, more loving sense of self.

Even after we assured students that if you can write your name you can paint, one young lady still felt shy and stuck to markers. But, to our delight, by the end of the workshop she was painting fearlessly. Another student lost his friend and created a big red heart to memorialize him, with the words "Love Lives."

Thank you, Literacy for Incarcerated Teens, Ms. Anja Kennedy and everyone at Passages. We had a wonderful time making affirmation paintings with students and faculty. Here's a small selection of some of the artwork they made.
I'm in command of me.

Get Your Wellness On!

Arts & Dreams teamed up with other organizations dedicated to empowerment and health for the 3rd Annual Get Your Wellness On! in Washington Square Park, NYC, October 21, 2012.
Patricia Geremia (taker of gorgeous photos!) + Laura Baran (happy author of this blog) + You = Arts & Dreams!

Get Your Wellness On! founder Esmeralda Signore-Noble and organizer Melissa Beh put together a fun schedule that included a flash mob about kindness, music and dance performances, healing, meditation and laughing yoga. 
Esmeralda's 20 year old son Andrew took his life in 2009 and she created Get Your Wellness On! to promote health and positivity. We enjoyed gorgeous weather that matched our spirits. 
Happy to be back at Get Your Wellness On! for our second year, Arts & Dreams brought markers, pastels, colored pencils, stencils and stickers so that anyone passing through the park could make their own works of art to take home and beautify their souls, minds and bodies. 

We invited everyone to create something that felt loving, positive and fun. Louise Hay's affirmation cards were on hand to inspire ideas - they have great affirmations and pretty illustrations. Check out all the beautiful folks and their art!
 My (Laura's) Mom and Dad came by, what a treat! And Mom and Dad Baran made their own affirmation art, which delighted me! How often do we get to make art with our parents? It's such a blessing.
 Here we are with Get Your Wellness On! founder Esmeralda Signore-Noble.
"Believe in Yourself" and "The World Needs You!"
Thank you for having us back, Get Your Wellness On! We are grateful to everyone who participated in this awesome event and to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for their support.

Arts & Dreams: The illustrated BOOK of creativity and joy!

We've been sharing Arts & Dreams with kids at schools and events since 2009 (click the links for photos from our workshops). We've also worked with teenagers and adults. In our Arts & Dreams workshops we've been reading wonderful books by authors we love like Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Deepak Chopra, and Louise L. Hay. We read their books to explain the concepts of self-love to children.

Now it's time to make our dream real by creating our very own 32-page, Arts & Dreams illustrated book for children, all about loving who you are and dreaming big dreams. Co-written by the Arts & Dreams team: Laura Baran and Patricia Geremia. All illustrations hand painted by Laura Baran. The book will be published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, the publishing company founded by Louise L. Hay, whose work with affirmations inspired Arts & Dreams.

Check out our Kickstarter campaign video.

This is literally our art and our dream! Please share and repost. Thank you for helping us to empower and inspire children!

You Become What You Believe

This is a link to a wonderful video of Oprah's Lifeclass with the very inspiring author and life coach Cheryl Richardson.

If you are interested in learning how to become what you believe, and what that means, take the time for yourself to watch, even if it is in segments or playing in the background while you do other things.  

Around the 35 minute mark, Oprah and Cheryl talk to a high school principal about teaching kids and teens about the positive, life changing power of affirmations.

FREE Arts & Dreams Workshops at Space on White

We're delighted to announce Arts & Dreams will share Empowering Affirmation Art Workshops at Space on White's Community Event: R E C E S S !

R E C E S S ! theatre | dance | visual art | music | play!

Sunday, October 2
2:00pm – 6:00pm
Space on White (map)
81 White Street (Broadway & Lafayette)
New York, NY
Free with RSVP via Facebook!

Remember when you first discovered art?  From handprint turkeys to xylophone scales, when we were kids, art was for everyone and being creative was always fun! Spark your imagination and invite your inner child to RECESS!, a special Space on White event for artists and non-artists to play, create, laugh, learn, discover, and have a great time reconnecting to the artist in all of us. Drop in on a workshop or stay for the whole day of easy, fun workshops exploring art, music, dance, and theatre, taught by our own community of artists!


subject to change
All classes are 45 minutes – sign up is day-of: first-come, first on the list!

Period 1 – 2:00: ARTS & DREAMS
Period 2 – 3:00: ARTS & DREAMS

Period 3 – 4:00: SHOELACE PROJECT
Period 4 – 5:00: EXQUISITE CORPSE

Period 1 – 2:00: OFF THE WALL
Period 2 – 3:00: WEIGHTLESS
Period 4 – 5:00: DANCE WORKSHOP

Period 1 – 2:00: SHAKESPEARE FOR FUN
Period 3 – 4:00: IMPROV

Open crafts including MAKE YOUR OWN LIPGLOSS

Mix & mingle with the Space on White community while enjoying snacks, music, and special surprises… 


Empowering Affirmation Art Workshop
Participants in Arts & Dreams workshops learn to love and accept themselves with positive statements called affirmations, which they will then use to create their own affirmation art. Laura Baran talks about how using affirmations can help heal negative thoughts in a creative way. Everyone makes affirmation artwork of their own – drawing with markers, crayons, pastels, pencils and glitter. No experience necessary!
Taught by Laura Baran with Patricia Geremia

For more information on the other classes at R E C E S S ! click here.

Free with RSVP via Facebook!

Teach kids how to shift from a negative emotion to a positive emotion

Here are some great tips on teaching kids how to shift from a negative emotion to a positive emotion. From The Institute of HeartMath.
HeartShift Tool
The HeartShift Tool helps you calm down and think more clearly. It teaches you how to feel better when you are upset and how to shift from a negative emotion to a positive emotion.
HeartShift Tool
You experience many emotions every day: happiness, excitement, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, peacefulness, curiosity. Emotions come and go, sometimes helping us, and other times making life harder. Each of us can control the power of these emotions. Say out loud what emotions you experienced today.
HeartShift Tool
Feelings that don’t feel good, like frustration, anger, fear or sadness, are uncomfortable. Remember a time when you were upset or frustrated? Did you notice there was tension in your shoulders? Did you have an uneasy stomach? Was your heart beating faster? What was your breathing like?
HeartShift Tool
Let’s try to shift your attention to your toes. Focus on your right toe: Wiggle it. Focus on your nose: Wiggle it. Now point to your heart and focus there. At first, placing your hand on your heart in the beginning will help you focus.

The Steps of HeartShift™ Tool

HeartShift Tool
Step 1: Notice what you are feeling.
Take a moment and ask yourself, "How am I feeling?" Say out loud what you are feeling. Let’s go to Step 2 to practice HeartShift.
HeartShift Tool
Step 2: Shift to your heart.
Put two fingers on your forehead and then move them from your head to your heart while saying, "Focus on the area of my heart." Take a moment and keep your focus there for practice. Let’s go to Step 3.
HeartShift Tool
Step 3: Breathe a feeling of calm.
Breathe slowly and easily. Imagine the air flowing in and out of your heart area. Take your time breathing in and out. Do this three to five times. What changes did you notice in your body? How do you feel now?
HeartShift Tool
It is important to identify what you are feeling, whether you are upset, mad or sad. Remember, you have a choice to do whatever you want with your emotions! You can do a HeartShift to calm yourself down and think more clearly. Feel better fast. Let’s try practicing HeartShift one more time.
Step 1: Notice what you are feeling.
Step 2: Shift to your heart.
Step 3: Breathe a feeling of calm.
Hope you are feeling better. Have a happy day!


painting by Laura Baran
Keep the child's mind full of harmony, of truth, and there will be no room for discord, for error.
Now, what advantage is it to send a youth out into the world with a head full of knowledge but without the confidence or assurance to use it effectively, or the ability to grapple with life's problems with that vigor and efficiency which alone can bring success?

The time will come when no child will be allowed to grow up without being taught to believe in themselves, to have great confidence in their ability. This will be a most important part of their education, for if a child believes in themselves enough, they will not be likely to allow a single deficient faculty or weakness to wreck their career.
Excerpt from The Miracle of Right Thought by Orison Swett Marden, published in 1910

The Art of Allowing

Affirmation painting by Laura Baran
"The most important thing that you can teach your children is that Well-being abounds. And that Well-being is naturally flowing to them. And that if they will relax and reach for thoughts that feel good, and do their best to appreciate, then they will be less likely to keep the Well-being away, and more likely to allow it to flow into their experience. Teach them the art of allowing."  -- Abraham-Hicks

Exercise to Increase Self-Compassion from Dr. Kristin Neff

artwork: Edgardo F. Garcia
  Changing Your Critical Self-talk
by Dr. Kristin Neff

This exercise should be done over several weeks, and will eventually form the blueprint for changing how you relate to yourself long-term.  Some people find it useful to work on their inner critic by writing in a journal.  Others are more comfortable doing it via internal dialogues.  If you are someone who likes to write things down and revisit them later, journaling can be an excellent tool for transformation.  If you are someone (like me) who never manages to be consistent with a journal, then do whatever works for you.  You can speak aloud to yourself, or think silently.

1) The first step towards changing the way to treat yourself is to notice when you are being self-critical.  It may be that – like many of us - your self-critical voice is so common for you that you don’t even notice when it is present.  Whenever you’re feeling bad about something, think about what you’ve just said to yourself. Try to be as accurate as possible, noting your inner speech verbatim.  What words do you actually use when you’re self-critical?  Are there key phrases that come up over and over again?  What is the tone of your voice – harsh, cold, angry?  Does the voice remind you of any one in your past who was critical of you?  You want to be able to get to know the inner self-critic very well, and to become aware of when your inner judge is active.  For instance, if you’ve just eaten half a box of Oreo’s, does your inner voice say something like “you’re so disgusting,” “you make me sick,” and so on?  Really try to get a clear sense of how you talk to yourself.

2) Make an active effort to soften the self-critical voice, but do so with compassion rather than self-judgment (i.e., don’t say “you’re such a bitch” to your inner critic!).  Say something like “I know you’re trying to keep me safe, and to point out ways that I need to improve, but your harsh criticism and judgment is not helping at all.  Please stop being so critical, you are causing me unnecessary pain.” 

3)  Reframe the observations made by your inner critic in a friendly, positive way.  If you’re having trouble thinking of what words to use, you might want to imagine what a very compassionate friend would say to you in this situation.  It might help to use a term of endearment that strengthens expressed feelings of warmth and care (but only if it feels natural rather than schmaltzy.)  For instance, you can say something like “Darling, I know you ate that bag of cookies because you’re feeling really sad right now and you thought it would cheer you up.  But you feel even worse and are not feeling good in your body.  I want you to be happy, so why don’t you take a long walk so you feel better?”  While engaging in this supportive self-talk, you might want to try gently stroking your arm, or holding your face tenderly in your hands (as long as no one’s looking).  Physical gestures of warmth can tap into the caregiving system even if you’re having trouble calling up emotions of kindness at first, releasing oxytocin that will help change your bio-chemistry.  The important thing is that you start acting kindly, and feelings of true warmth and caring will eventually follow.


Develop Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff

source: Why We Should Stop Chasing Self-Esteem and Start Developing Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff

How do we feel good about ourselves without needing to feel better than others and thus falling into the narcissism/self-loathing trap? One answer is to develop self-compassion.
Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves when life goes awry or we notice something about ourselves we don't like, rather than being cold or harshly self-critical. It recognizes that the human condition is imperfect, so that we feel connected to others when we fail or suffer rather than feeling separate or isolated. It also involves mindfulness -- the recognition and non-judgmental acceptance of painful emotions as they arise in the present moment. Rather than suppressing our pain or else making it into an exaggerated personal soap opera, we see ourselves and our situation clearly.

Self-compassion doesn't demand that we evaluate ourselves positively or that we see ourselves as better than others. Rather, the positive emotions of self-compassion kick in exactly when self-esteem falls down; when we don't meet our expectations or fail in some way. This means that the sense of intrinsic self-worth inherent in self-compassion is highly stable. It is constantly available to provide us with care and support in times of need. My research and that of my colleagues has shown that self-compassion offers the same benefits as high self-esteem, such as less anxiety and depression and greater happiness. However, it is not associated with the downsides of self-esteem such as narcissism, social comparison or ego-defensiveness.

Instead of endlessly chasing self-esteem as if it were the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, therefore, I would argue that we should encourage the development of self-compassion. That way, whether we're on top of the world or at the bottom of the heap, we can embrace ourselves with a sense a kindness, connectedness and emotional balance. We can provide the emotional safety needed to see ourselves clearly and make whatever changes are necessary to address our suffering. We can learn to feel good about ourselves not because we're special and above average, but because we're human beings intrinsically worthy of respect.

Why not try it? If you want to learn more about self-compassion or test your own self-compassion level, go to

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Children

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Children by Deepak Chopra:
  1. Everything is possible. We all have the gift of creating absolutely anything. There’s no limit to what we can do or be.
  2. If you want to get something, give it. Always give with a happy heart. The greatest gift is feeling good.
  3. When you make a choice, you change the future (karma).Your choices bring about changes. To make good choices, follow your heart. How do your choices make you feel?
  4. Don’t say no—go with the flow. Create peace within by learning acceptance of what is outside our control.
  5. Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed. Making your wish is like planting a seed and believing that it will grow. Let nature do the rest.
  6. Be open to life and enjoy the journey. New ways and new ideas can lead to more happiness.
  7. You are here for a reason.Your dharma is your purpose, path, or vision, the unique talent that you are here on Earth to share. Your dharma is your happiness.