Students at Axtell Park School in Sioux Falls have a unique story to tell, and a unique way to express themselves.

The caption beneath one painting reads, “even though I live in a world with hurt I never wilt.” The artist, Carrie Gill, is a recent graduate of Joe Foss Alternative School. She describes her past as “very difficult,” and prefers to leave it at that.

“My piece is more saying that, even though I’ve come from a bad past and all that, I’m not going to let it crush me, I’m going to let it make me more beautiful,” Gill said.

It’s just one piece showcased in Friday’s Recovery Art Show at Axtell Park. The artists are all students in the building’s different programs. The caption below another painting reads, “Becoming sober can lead you out of the hole of depression.” Another features duct tape covering a girl’s mouth. Another reads, “suicidal thoughts can take even the brightest people from this earth.”

“We’ve had people who did their piece about cutting,” Joan Zephier said. “We’ve had people do it about eating disorders. And I just come in and sit down with them all, and we just kind of work three hours at a time for the week, and create our pieces and have a show.”

Zephier calls herself the “artist in residence,” and has recovered from addiction herself. She created this program three years ago.

“I’ve gone home, though, and had, like, a complete stomachache from maybe somebody’s story,” Zephier said. “[I] still think about the kids from last year or the year before that I’ve worked with, and maybe didn’t come back this year, or whatever, and kind of wonder where they’re at.”

She knows why she keeps returning to these halls.

“I didn’t know that was going to be something that I was going to enjoy as much as I do,” Zephier said. “I like connecting with them, I like being able to share my experience with them, but also hear about their lives and help them kind of form what they’re going to work on.”

Joe Foss student Sawra Adris painted a piece. She says being part of the art recovery program helps her feel calm.

“You get to come out and then be yourself,” Adris said.

“It’s made me a bit more confident, and it’s given me some goals to look forward to,” Gill said.

If you’re like us and you want to see more of these paintings, you’ll have a chance- they’ll be featured in an upcoming “bigger show” in May, Zephier says. Once we know the exact date and place, we’ll let you know.

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