An art exhibit opened at Drake University on Sunday featuring a collection of drawings and paintings done by teenagers living at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. Kathy Fejes, a Drake education professor, says the exhibit “Trauma Reflected in Art” shows how the pain of child abuse can spawn artworks of tragedy — and hope. Fejes says “They’re not just artistic works, they are means of expressing the experiences, many of them experiences of trauma, but many of them are experiences that demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit, of kids that have been through extraordinarily tragic things in their lives and how they are overcoming those.” The artists range in age from 14 to 17.

Fejes says some of the pieces show incredible pain and tragedy while others are very hopeful. She says the display will haunt some visitors, but they will walk out with a better understanding of the experiences of some of Iowa’s young people. She says “Many people will see these works and say ‘Oh boy, that’s kind of scary’ or ‘Wow, isn’t this beautiful?’ and they’re missing some of the subtle cues that students want them to see that are being expressed in these artworks.”

Fejes says each work of art is accompanied by an essay from the artists, detailing emotions and events that impacted their lives and prompted the piece. Fejes says “The pairing of the essays or the prose or the students’ own words about their piece is very, very powerful, very moving, and it does set the stage for interpretation of the person who’s viewing the show — really unique.” The exhibit is at Drake’s School of Education in Des Moines.