Discovering the Healing Power of Art and Music:

A Recap of Murals & Melodies Summer Empowerment Camp

By Theresa Rulien

As a parent, you always look for ways to help your child grow and explore their interests. But what about their emotions? Big feelings like anger, fear, and sadness can be overwhelming for children, who often lack the tools to process and express them in a healthy way. That’s why it is my pleasure, as CEO of Child Guidance Center, to tell you about an extraordinary day camp we were part of last week. The Soul Life Murals & Melodies Summer Empowerment Camp was designed to provide children with an opportunity to explore their emotions through art and music. As an advocate for children’s mental health, I was thrilled to see how the camp fostered their creativity, strengthened their social skills, and built their self-confidence. I’m excited to share some insights on this camp’s impact and success. 

The Power of Art, Music, and Alternative Forms of Expression

The Soul Life Murals & Melodies Summer Empowerment Camp incorporated an array of creative activities—including music, painting, drawing, comic creation using AI, animation, yoga, storytelling, and canine therapy. During the week, the children were able to express their emotions and feelings in a positive manner while developing essential skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. They had the chance to experiment with new ideas, take risks and work together in a supportive environment. All the camp activities culminated in an incredible show on Friday for family and friends, showcasing the talents and achievements of the children.

Music was a major part of the camp and, with the help of Luc Reynaud of The Goodness Tour, the children created beats and tunes, wrote lyrics, and performed their original songs live with their peers. It was heartwarming to see how music brought all the kids from different backgrounds together and how they used it to convey their beliefs and emotions. Music has the power to heal, and seeing the transformation in these children through music was awe-inspiring.

Painting and drawing were also an essential part of the camp, and the kids created fantastic work that showcased their creativity. The Goodness Tour’s Benjamin Swatez encouraged and demonstrated to campers how to express their emotions through their artwork. Seeing them doing so in imaginative ways in such a supportive environment was a joy. Watching the children transform their thoughts and feelings into beautiful art was a reminder of the therapeutic benefits of visual arts.

A poster reading "AI Comics with Jeremiah" is sitting on an easel in front of a wall with a gallery of comics created by the campers.

The Comics and Animation activities using AI technology were the most unique aspect of the camp. Jeremiah Alexis of The Goodness Tour helped the campers create their comics and brought their characters to life through AI. They were able to explore their emotions through storytelling in an engaging and interactive way. It was amazing to witness how technology could be used in such a positive manner.

Our Outdoor Adventures offered team building exercises and a visit from Dr. Carlene Taylor , Lucy Croft, and the UNF Campus Canines provided a unique activity where the campers learned about non-verbal communication. Research has shown that interacting with animals can positively impact mental health. It was incredible to see how these animals transformed the children’s moods, and it highlighted the therapeutic benefits of animal-assisted therapy.

The Story Lab, led by Dr. Chez Leeby of Soul Life, provided a safe space for self-exploration. There was a myriad of activities providing ways to validate self-concept and healthy coping skills within an environment aimed at sharing empowerment practices. It allowed them to share their individual stories and experience the expressive, often healing, journey rather than aim for the end result.



The Movement and Meditation segments, with Margo Park and Gigi Gojgac, offered a time for the campers to practice mindfulness, including breathing, stretching, and inwardly focusing.  This part was interesting to witness as the campers went from displaying and verbalizing feelings of awkwardness to fully participating and expressing delight in accomplishing the challenges presented to them.

At the end of the week, campers were given an opportunity to perform for their friends and family in a showcase. The room filled with cheers and applause as the campers shared their creations with pride. Seeing them shine so brightly is something that will stay with us for a long time, and it is something that we hope they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Creating Safe Spaces for Emotional Expression

The Soul Life Murals & Melodies Summer Empowerment Camp was a fulfilling and rewarding experience for our campers and volunteers. Through these activities, the children built on their resilience, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence in ways that will benefit them throughout their lives. We are grateful to Soul Life, The Goodness Tour, UNF Brooks College of Health, our volunteers, and donors who generously supported us to help make the camp a success. We have watched as these children have budded into confident and creative individuals with a fuller sense of self, and we look forward to seeing them again next camp for an even more memorable experience.

If there’s one takeaway from this blog post, it’s that art, music, and alternative manners of self-expression are powerful tools for healing and growth and should be an integral part of a child’s development. As a community, we must do more to create safe and encouraging spaces to empower our children to express their emotions positively. Together, we can work to foster creativity in our children and help them become their best selves!

A group of about 50 campers pose together in an auditorium with a few counselors.