Astor's Expressive Arts Program

In this short video, Astor Services for Children and Families’ Artist in Residence Kevin Rifenburg speaks about Astor’s Expressive Arts Program.

“The Expressive Arts Program here at Astor involves children coming into a space where they use various mediums to explore and create a non-verbal way to express themselves.”


Expressive Arts Program

For more than 30 years, Astor has used art to aide in the healing of traumatized children in our Rhinebeck facility. Astor’s Expressive Arts Program encourages children to enter a creative space where they receive guidance and artistic support to “say” what cannot always be said with words. Without inhibitions, the kids enter the studio for an exciting experience. Children are able to build their confidence with painting, as well as share their thoughts and feelings pertaining to their day. The children begin with a blank canvas and the paint strokes start a dialogue. The ongoing effort becomes a powerful relationship with art and individual self-expression.


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Building Self-Worth

We strive to help kids pull together their life narrative which may be saturated with trauma storylines. The children often don’t have the verbal language to assemble that story. The Expressive Arts Program helps them do that. You see in these paintings a landscape of their unconsciousness — what it feels like to be them. It’s a great place for us to begin to re-tell and rebuild their stories.

So, when a child says, “I am going to fill in all the empty places with blue clouds,” he might be talking about more than just paint.

Equally as important, art becomes a way to build a child’s self-worth. The child sees another person — a peer, a teacher, a stranger — admiring not only the art but admiring the person that created that piece of art. It’s an intimate experience that builds the child from within. That is a beautiful moment to witness.


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Astor Art Program Vision

“Our goal is to create a self-sustaining program that works hand-in-hand with all of the programs at Astor — to take it from an ad hoc program to one that is a key ingredient in Astor’s offering. Based on the effectiveness of the program to date, we would like to gradually expand it to include all or most of Astor’s facilities and the 10,000 children and families we reach every year.”

— Sonia Barnes-Moorhead, Executive Vice President, The Children’s Foundation of Astor




This painting was created by a child in Astor’s Expressive Arts Program and featured in the 2019 Lifetime movie, A Christmas Wish, starring our friends Hilarie Burton & Tyler Hilton.


You can support Astor’s Expressive Arts Program with a donation to our Arts Program.