How Art Can Help Heal

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Photo of Charles William taken by Mona Reeder/The Dallas Morning News

Photo of Charles William taken by Mona Reeder/The Dallas Morning News

One of the feature stories I’ve been working on ran today as the main feature in the Sunday edition of The Dallas Morning News’ arts and entertainment section. You can read the story here:


 When he looks in the mirror, artist Charles William sees a reflection he often runs from, but one that he is learning to embrace.

The misspelled message painted on his self-portrait, “Unfinished Reflections,” explains it well: “I keep faith, knowing comefort in my own skin.”

It’s taken Mr. William, 34, a while to learn what comfort means. For years, he lived on street corners, in shelters and under bridges. Comfort became a patch of shade, a tuft of grass, a sandwich from a stranger. Then he went to the Stewpot, where he learned of the Dallas-based shelter’s art program. Four years later, he is the shelter’s most prolific painter, the artist who has shown how art can help heal.


How I got the story: I found this story while exploring the city on my first day in Dallas. I’ve always been intrigued by churches, so I visited each of the churches downtown and stumbled upon an art exhibit in the Goodrich Gallery at the First United Methodist Church. I noticed that the artwork had been created by homeless and at-risk individuals who visit the Stewpot, a local shelter. Wanting to know more about the artists behind the work, I picked up a pamphlet about the exhibit, made some calls and eventually got in touch with the woman who runs the Stewpot art classes.

After getting some background information, I asked the director if she could point me to a particular person in the program who had an especially interesting story. I wanted to tell the story of the program through the eyes of a person rather than writing a simple round-up story about it. I’ve always believed good storytelling isn’t so much about places and things. It’s about people.