In past posts I have talked about the Genjo Practice encouraged by Jiyu Gage at the Vista Zen Center. One manifestation of this practice is what we have called “The Wonder Project” which encourages both creative expression and social action. One of the members who has been central to the success of this project is Alessandra Colfi who I see as living a life that embodies both the creative and spiritual practices that are the focus of this blogsite. Today’s post is a reprint of an inspiring article about Alessandra which was just published in THE COAST NEWS.
By Kay Colvin
The Coast News
The 13th century Persian poet Rumi wrote “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
Oceanside artist Alessandra Colfi has taken these words to heart in the unfolding of her life’s journey.
Having grown up in the small village of Lesmo in northern Italy, Alessandra spent seven years in Italy’s fashion industry before coming to the U.S. in 1993.
After continuing as Area Manager for an Italian designer brand in America, she felt burned out after experiencing several personal losses.
She turned to exploring art and crafts as a means of picking up the pieces and healing her soul.
By 2000 Alessandra had received recognition for her collage and mixed media artwork and for her line of greeting cards and custom greetings Cardissima™ when she began volunteering time with patients in offering arts and crafts workshops at the former Wellness Community San Diego.
She recalls of the experience, “I felt so moved by the enthusiasm of the patients and by the need… It opened my heart and my creative ability to turn a solitary personal practice into a service and a profession — the best I could have ever aspired to.”
Through a series of events, in 2009 Alessandra began volunteering at SDCRI (San Diego Cancer Research Institute), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for cancer patients through cutting-edge therapies and comprehensive integrative approaches. Offering Expressive Arts Therapy group sessions employing visual art, movement, music, drama, Alessandra comments, “I felt very strongly that patients would benefit from a regular, long term program and being committed and engaged in a progressive, ongoing process.”
Alessandra began offering Expressive Arts Therapy “Playshops,” which guide participants to get in touch with their creative, healing energy and wisdom. She says, “My sessions are an opportunity for self-discovery, and to share laughter, joy and hands-on playful time with others. Through spontaneous creativity, children and adults alike experience a deep transformation, which results in increased awareness, behavior modification, reduction in conflicts and improved sense of wellbeing, inner strength, confidence, and resilience.”
She continues, “Expressive Arts Therapy offers a wide array of intuitive, engaging and playful tools to reawaken the healing power from within, to connect with our unconscious where wisdom and awareness reside. What’s important is the process, the discovery and creation, not the product.”
Through SDCRI Alessandra offers several ongoing programs including “PhotoPainting,” in which participants transform experiences and inner dialogues into meaningful images that tell their story; “The Artful Book of Wonders” — altered books as visual journals; “Artful Recipes for Life” — a box filled with unique cards to express qualities to support patients’ healing journey; “The Artful Bra” — channeling healing qualities and personalities into outrageously, over-the-top decorated bras and purses; and “Meditation Bracelets” — inspired by Mala beads, to support mindfulness and patients’ meditation practice.
The programs are free to cancer patients and their caretakers throughout San Diego County with pre-registration required at www.sdcri.org.
Alessandra’s most recently inspired project “Hope Made Visible™” is a call to patients in creating prayer flags to share hope, dreams and healing. She shares her enthusiasm, “Through social media and networking, we are starting to receive flags from all corners of the world. Every time we receive a box with magnificent, unique flags with their heartfelt messages, patients feel connected, moved, and hopeful.”
The “Hope Made Visible™” prayer flags will be on display in the Encinitas Community and Senior Center in 2014, after which Alessandra hopes to have them travel to various venues throughout the region. She projects, “Our flags will be a living, breathing, kinetic journal of our hopes, dreams and concerns.”
In addition to her work at SDCRI, Alessandra facilitates her Expressive Arts Therapy program through many organizations including the UCSD Moores Cancer Center, works with individuals with developmental disabilities through the California Mentor program and is a faculty member at International University of Professional Studies where she mentors graduate students, and provides stimulating and competent art education to elementary school children through ArtReach San Diego.
Enthusiastic in her experimentation with all non-toxic materials, in 2007 Alessandra joined her husband William Leslie in creating Paper Sun Lightsculptures, gracefully artistic lighting fixtures currently represented by Mixture, a modern furniture and home accessories store in San Diego, and the Gallery of Functional Art in Santa Monica.
With degrees in Linguistics and Fine Art, Alessandra is currently working towards a Doctorate Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy.
Her dissertation explores her thesis that “the Expressive Arts transform the consciousness of individuals from the opposites of co-dependency and disconnect to deep interconnectedness by raising empathic awareness and restoring resilience, which are essential qualities for humans to thrive.”
In the process of helping others, Alessandra has found her passion, her true life’s calling.
Learn more about Alessandra Colfi, her Expressive Arts Therapy programs, her artwork, and her community involvement by visiting AlessandraColfi.com.
Kay Colvin is director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, serves as an arts commissioner for the City of Encinitas, and specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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