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Art project plans to color Aurora community outlook

MelissHedlund is spearheading Art Jam Saturday as part her nonprofit The Light Heart.  |  Sun-Times Medifile photo

Melissa Hedlund is spearheading Art Jam on Saturday as part of her nonprofit, The Light of the Heart. | Sun-Times Media file photo

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If you go

What: The Light of the Heart’s first fundraiser, which will include collaborative art making

When: Nov. 4

Where: The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. Tickets: Find The Light of the Heart’s Painting at the Paramount event on Facebook.

Updated: November 29, 2012 6:15AM

It’s easy to spot Melissa Hedlund with her streaked blond hair and white framed glasses, but it might be the crayons that give her away. Hedlund, with her kid-friendly art supplies, seems to be everywhere that there are crowds of people lately.

Hedlund, 33, is the co-founder and executive director of The Light of the Heart: A Community Art Therapy Project. She and her sister April have been busy the last few weeks attending local farmers markets, art shows and community events in downtown Aurora and beyond since gaining nonprofit status.

Hedlund’s latest appearance at the Aurora ArtWalk literally heated up the foyer of the Aurora Transportation Center on Broadway when she set up a hands-on exhibit that welcomed children of all ages to melt crayons with hair dryers.

“I believe we are all artists,” said Hedlund, who steered away from a career in the medical field to pursue psychology and art.

She ended up getting her master’s degree in art therapy and counseling.

Hedlund grew up in Wheaton and now lives in Aurora. She believes that art therapy is for everyone and it worked for her.

“I started creating (art) with watercolors and a sketch pad and was able to get through a really dark period in my life,” Hedlund said.

In the summer of 2010 while Hedlund was the art director of a local summer camp serving at-risk youth, the idea of The Light of the Heart, an art therapy non-profit organization, was born.

“The kids were defeated and not connected. When they would create art they would connect with their peers and it would bring so much joy and light into their hearts,” she said.

The Light of the Heart intends to uncover the light of the hearts in the entire community through the creative process of art making, Hedlund said. To this end, the Hedlund sisters have been taking every opportunity to connect with the Aurora community.

One of the nonprofits’ first endeavors was making a window display of paper hearts for the Vacant Window Project in downtown Aurora. The colorful hearts fill the storefront to the east of Subway on Downer Place. They sent the remaining hearts to Aurora, Colo., after the July shooting deaths of a dozen people at the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The city displayed the hearts in its city hall.

“I felt so distraught,” Hedlund said. “We were extending our love and light during a difficult time.”

Sharing art with others is part of Hedlund’s mission. The Light of the Heart is partnering with other local organizations, such as Hesed House, and plans to branch off into several mobile art therapy programs.

As for Hedlund and her crayons, don’t expect to see them go away anytime soon.

“I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” she said.

Any nonprofit interested in partnering to connect their community through art therapy, can contact Hedlund at or call 630-486-4078.

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