The Art of Making Friends

Post by Maureen Fischer,  MaureenInk Communications,  Twitter: @ MaureenFischer,

Note:  Social Media Consultant Maureen Fischer contributed hundreds of hours of her time to Amicus in launching this blog and integrating it with our other social media.  Thanks Maureen! You’ve made “Inside Change” something we can all be proud of. You’re always an Amicus in our eyes!

Nine 16-year-old girls met on a balmy afternoon in late September to paint Carrie Miller’s 1991 Honda Accord. Miller brought cans of Rustoleum, brushes, plastic bags and her sanded and primed car.

The Brooklyn Center teens have been meeting every Wednesday afternoon for fifteen weeks with Radius counselors Carrie Miller and Sara Underwood to talk about important issues in their lives. It’s part of Amicus/Radius for girls,  a program with several components, one of which is a girls group with a unique curriculum written by Amicus/Radius staff.

The week before, the girls had discussed identity, their interests and how they think of themselves. That discussion translated to car art during week three.

“One of the girls put “dance” on the car; dance is a big part of her life,” says Miller. “The right side of the car says money and has dollar signs. The girls tell me now I’m going to become rich. There’s ‘love’ written on the car. And one of the quieter girls splatter-painted the whole left side. It’s my favorite part. She earned a lot of attention for coming up with such an original technique.”

Though two of the girls came all dressed up with perfect hair, telegraphing ‘we’re not painting the car,’ Miller says within three minutes they donned plastic bags and were painting.

Both Miller and Underwood deem the 1 ½ hour event a success. “The car painting was week three for the group, a week that’s a turning point,” says Miller. “It’s a stage where there are still a lot of nerves and checking each other out. An art project, the crazier the better,brings everyone together.”

Carrie Miller in background

Though the car is not the most beautiful thing in the world, people respond to it, says Miller. More important, the activity accomplished its objective. “The group gelled. They’re great, a solid group. I can’t get them to stop talking these days; they’re there for each other and I’m definitely excited to see it.”

Bonding and building trust are part of what Amicus and Radius are all about.  “There are not enough spaces for girls to come together and talk about the important things in their lives,” says Miller. “Radius provides that.”

The Radius program derives from research on what works best for  girls in the juvenile justice system. Radius serves young women in Ramsey and Dakota Counties and  Hennepin County School District 287.