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Dexter kids turn to art to get their minds off the tornado

Dexter residents are still dealing with the aftermath of the tornadothat through their town earlier this month. To help with the healing process, one woman has set up an outdoor art studio for kids in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods.

Christine Lux's makeshift studio consists of some tables, a tent, and a giant blue tarp to protect the children’s art work and art supplies.

One recent weekday afternoon, Lux is surrounded by a handful of kids in smocks, each wielding a paint brush dripping with brightly-colored paint. They're decorating a banner that says "Dexter: There’s No Place Like Home."

It’s just one of the many projects Dexter kids have been working on with Lux over the last few weeks.

The plan, according to Lux, is to take the sign down to the gazebo in the center of town as a "thank you" to all the folks who have helped in the rebuilding efforts.

"That's something that they have that the tornado couldn't take away from them," says Lux. "They had the community, and that's where your real home is."

Lux, an artist herself, says she's done art therapy with adults and kids for many years. She says her makeshift studio in Dexter's Huron Farms neighborhood allows the kids to have "something normal to do and something healthy to do, and get back that sense of control and safety that you use when you go through such a trauma as this."

All told she says she's had about 50 kids drop by the studio since she's been there. Ryan Lewis, 12, has painted a couple things at the outdoor studio with his little sister, Ava.

"It’s relaxing here because it’s nice to get away from all the commotion around our neighborhood with the ‘oh my gosh, there’s a whole in my house’ and all that," explains Lewis.

He adds that it's "still overwhelming" to think about his neighbors houses being leveled to the ground.

His brother, 10-year old Noah Lewish, agrees. He says he drops by the art studio after school to "get the tornado off my mind." His friend, 9-year old Daniel Harding, is at the studio to "do something other than hang around in [my] house, looking at everything." Harding's house still has some damage from the tornado.

Lux says, more often than not, the kids choose to paint on largest canvas available. The kids paint whatever they want, no prompts necessary. The kids choose bright, bold colors to paint everything from up close blades of grass to more abstract items.

There are a couple paintings of houses with basements, which Lux says she hasn't many kids include in the past.

Lux was initially there seven days a week, but has scaled back to three days a week. She's looking for volunteers  - other artists or art therapists - who want to join her, and she says more art supplies are always welcome.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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