STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Jackson County art program gives hope to people recovering from addiction

Sonya Clemons uses vivid colors to help her students brush away the scars from drug abuse.

Posted: Sep 23, 2019 5:45 PM
Updated: Sep 24, 2019 9:25 AM

​Every Friday, students of all ages gather inside a classroom in downtown Jackson County to find hope.

It's far from your typical art class. Their teacher, Sonya Clemons, affectionately known as the "Art Lady," uses vivid colors to help her students brush away the scars from drug abuse.

"In Jackson County, we don't have a lot of creative opportunities," said Clemons. "That is changing, but I noticed, maybe in the recovery community, it could be an asset." ​

Three years ago, Clemons gathered up her paint brushes, paint and canvas and made an offer to someone who could help her make a difference, Jackson County Drug Court Judge John Graham.

"She said, 'This is a great program and I want to do something to help,'" ​Graham said. "I'm all for anything that can help people who are in recovery, but I just didn't have my mind around what an arts program could do for folks struggling with drug addition...I didn't have the vision. She had the vision." ​

Clemons spent years creating that vision through colorful murals displayed in schools throughout North Alabama and Tennessee. They're filled with bright images of encouragement and happiness. ​

It's that experience that she wanted to share with those who are struggling with recovery, including their kids.

"I was hoping and thinking the new art program might be therapeutic and might give them something to do and open up new opportunities for them," said Clemons.

Now in its third year, Clemons claims this is the only program of its type in the state and possibly, the nation. The "Pictures of Hope" Family Wellness program is enhancing an already 85-percent drug recovery success rate.​

It's not mandatory, but it's very popular.

"I've had people say they did not have joy in their lives until they sat down with their child at that table, that it helped them see the little things, the human things that a parent and child can do together," said Graham. "We don't have to beg people to go to art class. They love to go to art class, and they love Sonya (Clemons) because she believes in them and sees the good in them."

Brian Monty is one of Clemons' first students. After suffering for years with alcohol and drug addiction, including a stint in jail, Monty tried something new to break his cycle of self destruction. ​

"At first, I thought it (art class) as kind of funny, because I am 46 years old and I am doing art projects," said Monty. "But, it's actually very enjoyable. It's a great way to spend time after a long day of hard work. It's a great way to unwind."

Clemons admits that there's a compelling reason why she started this program to help those like Monty stay on the path to recovery. She actually knew someone who died early after wasting his life away. It was her father.

"He had a heart attack in his sleep when he was 42," recalled Clemons. ​

Clemons describes her father as an "out all night" type of person who battled drug addiction. However, she'll never forget when he encouraged her to pick up that first paint brush and pursue her passion to help others.

"I feel like, because of my background, I feel like I can relate to them very well," said Clemons.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 76°
Florence
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 80°
Fayetteville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 79°
Decatur
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Scottsboro
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 82°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6219167
Mobile4625138
Montgomery4397111
Tuscaloosa258652
Madison19839
Marshall190411
Shelby155724
Lee153537
Morgan12415
Baldwin117011
Walker105631
Elmore100721
Dallas9789
Franklin92816
Etowah91914
DeKalb8647
Russell6650
Chambers66427
Autauga66214
Butler64529
Tallapoosa62569
Unassigned61627
Limestone5963
Houston5616
Lauderdale5556
Cullman5546
St. Clair4842
Colbert4816
Lowndes48022
Escambia4688
Pike4675
Calhoun4565
Coffee4164
Covington40312
Jackson4022
Barbour3772
Bullock37610
Dale3721
Talladega3677
Hale34323
Marengo34211
Clarke3036
Wilcox2998
Chilton2952
Winston2925
Sumter28713
Blount2811
Marion26714
Pickens2626
Monroe2553
Randolph2489
Conecuh2278
Perry2242
Bibb2151
Macon2129
Choctaw20912
Greene1929
Henry1463
Washington1367
Crenshaw1263
Lawrence1210
Cherokee1157
Geneva950
Lamar871
Clay822
Fayette811
Coosa631
Cleburne421
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 59546

Reported Deaths: 723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby13113219
Davidson12935142
Rutherford342839
Hamilton319637
Sumner187456
Williamson167016
Knox15069
Trousdale15065
Out of TN139710
Wilson113017
Putnam10027
Unassigned9362
Bradley9254
Robertson90113
Sevier8843
Montgomery7127
Lake6960
Tipton6926
Bledsoe6271
Bedford5989
Macon5686
Hamblen4474
Maury4313
Hardeman4004
Fayette3573
Madison3472
Loudon3201
Blount3063
Rhea3030
Dyer2803
McMinn27018
Cheatham2643
Dickson2510
Washington2350
Lawrence2276
Cumberland2004
Anderson1892
Sullivan1892
Lauderdale1754
Gibson1661
Jefferson1641
Monroe1526
Smith1482
Greene1382
Coffee1370
Cocke1300
Hardin1257
Warren1200
Obion1182
Haywood1132
Franklin1103
Wayne1100
Marshall1082
Hickman1010
McNairy1001
Marion914
Giles891
Carter871
Lincoln840
Hawkins832
DeKalb820
White813
Roane800
Overton701
Weakley691
Claiborne680
Campbell671
Grundy652
Henderson650
Chester590
Unicoi560
Grainger550
Polk550
Carroll521
Henry500
Crockett493
Cannon460
Jackson460
Johnson450
Sequatchie450
Humphreys392
Meigs370
Perry370
Morgan301
Decatur280
Fentress270
Stewart270
Scott260
Union220
Houston200
Clay180
Moore170
Benton151
Hancock110
Lewis100
Van Buren90
Pickett70

 

 

Community Events