BRADFORD, VT -- Oxbow middle-school students are welcoming in the new year with artistic expression and healthy relationships. The week of Jan. 30, SafeArt and the SafeArt Teen Ensemble will join Oxbow's eighth-grade team leading interactive lessons on relationship dynamics, the impact of trauma on the brain and safe ways to be proactive bystanders. This is SafeArt's fourth time coming to Oxbow Middle School this school year. In the fall, SafeArt worked with ninth graders, 10th graders, faculty and staff.

At the beginning of the week the 8-10th graders are invited to watch the SafeArt Teen Ensemble deliver a performance addressing issues that are important to them such as bullying, body image and self-harm. Through song, poetry, dance and short skits the Ensemble delivers a message of hope, using humor to balance the seriousness of the topics they address.

The conversation students have with the Ensemble after the performance sets the stage for talking about difficult issues in a respectful environment. The eighth graders will use movement, and music to engage these difficult topics, then choose a topic and create an art project that explores progression towards resolution or taking the next step. At the end of the residency the students can, and most do, choose to present their piece to the rest of their grade.

SafeArt's program has been welcomed to the Oxbow Middle School for the past three years. Teachers value the impact that these residencies have on their students.

"All of us were deeply moved by the kids and what they shared in their performances. We do see a change in the way they interact ... to be sure it is a "felt sense" and anecdotal, but we feel that Safe Art made a real difference in the way they see themselves and each other," said Mary Chin, Oxbow High School art teacher.

An added benefit of the SafeArt curriculum is that it helps schools meet the Vermont Legislative Act 1 mandate that went into effect at the beginning of the school year. The mandate is part of a larger effort to reduce sexual violence and requires schools to offer age appropriate sexual violence education to students grades K-12.

This goal is in line with SafeArt's core mission to engage the transformative power of the arts to prevent and heal abuse and other traumas.

"I like to believe that if SafeArt had come to my high school when I was a teenager that I wouldn't have spent the next decade in an abusive relationship," said Tracy Penfield, founding director of SafeArt.

The Vermont Children's Trust Foundation has granted SafeArt three years of funding to work with Oxbow's middle and high school students and provide a Making SafeArt! trainings to local faculty, staff and practitioners about being trauma informed and integrating the arts into any classroom environment or practice. Learn more about SafeArt on the website: For more information, call (802) 685.3138, email, or visit


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