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    Heart Marks brings art therapy to the community

    When Jessica Payne began searching for a specialized type of art therapy to help her through a difficult time in her life, the only classes she could find were focused on people with special needs or disabilities. 

    She knew about the power of art therapy and its ability to heal and process emotions, and wanted to find a way to offer it locally.

    By networking with her friends, family and colleagues, Payne has gathered a team of 15 to 20 professionals to join her effort, now called “Heart Marks Art Therapy.”

    “I wanted to find a way to help people experiencing grief and loss, addiction, recovery and more. Now the stars have aligned and we have a great team of people who want to work on this,” Payne said.

    Payne plans to partner with local organizations such as Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter and Boulder Crest Retreat, as well as Capital Care, to offer art therapy and help people express their emotions and what they are going through. 

    As a former preschool teacher, she is well-prepared to handle a classroom setting and has years of lesson plans to use as material. 

    One project she used in a recent therapy class with children included ripping up pieces of construction paper and gluing the pieces in the shape of a tree. The children could take the tree home and use heart shaped stickers to fill it with “leaves” to show progress or accomplishments in their day. 

    “It gives them a visual grasp on their growth and helps point out what they are going through,” Payne said.

    Another popular therapy with adults, Payne described, is to use old dishes and smash them against the wall, then use the pieces to make mosaic stepping stones. 

    “It is an amazing stress reliever and is a great way to take anger and make it into something beautiful,” Payne said.   

    While Payne does not have a permanent location for Heart Marks yet, she is hoping as they continue to grow and receive more funding for the nonprofit, they will be able to find a “home base.” Until that time, she will travel to different locations to hold the therapy classes.

    Heart Marks is planning an art challenge and reception to kick off their program at Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville April 12 from 1 to 3 p.m.

    The public is invited to contribute art of any form, which will be exhibited prior to the reception. The theme is “feelings that have left marks on your heart.” Art entries are due at Franklin Park by 5 p.m. April 8. For more information, visit

    “Hopefully those that enter will go through their own therapy in the process. This interactive art therapy is showing people it is OK to express what you are going through,” Payne said.


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