Art has the power to heal — and the artwork that comes out of the healing process can be amazing.

Not always, sure, there are some art-therapy drawings only a mother could love. But check out the woodcarvings, prints, and copper art on exhibit at Arts Underground March 7 to 29. They’re impressive.

The new show is called Days of Our Knives, and it features beginner and advanced carvers at the Northern Cultural Expressions Society.

Program participants range in age from 14 to 30 years old, and many are coming out of a cycle of physical abuse, emotional neglect, involvement with the justice system, substance abuse, and the multi-generational effects of residential schools.

Program supervisor Colin Teramura says he has witnessed the healing process taking effect. He has seen people start the program and get on their feet — sometimes gaining solid ground to face daily struggles with alcohol.

“For some, it’s all about the art form and mastery of the art form,” Teramura says. “For others it’s just being here every day, and connecting with people. And we’ve seen lots of success with guys who, before they were in the program, were young punks wandering aimlessly and smoking lots of pot. And now we’ve got guys who have only been in the program for a year, but are teaching carving in schools and are going to the communities to put on workshops.”

The success is a combination of making art, feeling safe, and receiving the support and counsel of the teachers.

“It’s such a unique place,” Teramura says. “You have to be able to sit down and carve with the guy. And talk — trust is the big thing.”

Three of the instructors will be showing their work alongside the advanced and beginner carvers. Teramura says these guys — Jacob Blanchard, Jared Kane, and Calvin Morberg — deserve recognition for both their talent and their ability to connect with the students. Their work in the show is a testament to their ability to use traditional imagery to create original works.

“Every mask Calvin has ever done, I’ve been astounded by,” Teramura says. “There’s a depth to Jacob’s work that’s often missing in other people’s work.

“And Jared, his art is strong and confident, and again, very original.”

The work of 15 carvers will be showcased, and they’re not all First Nations; the program is open to people of all ethnic backgrounds.

There’s a natural, un-planned, and probably subconscious, exchange of ways of being among the participants. For example, Teramura has seen the First Nations carvers check out the method Yuyu Morishima — a Japanese carver — uses to care for his carving tools.

“I could never have planned that,” Teramura says. “He’s very meticulous, and the guys’ see that — and it’s discipline.”

The exhibition gives all of the carvers an opportunity to demonstrate their skills — but it’s also an opportunity to connect with people interested in joining the program.

Advanced carver Duran Henry can recommend it. He joined the program seven years ago.

“This program has helped me through a lot of dark times in my life and has become an extended part of my family,” Henry says. “Me and the guys have been through a lot, and we’ve been able to teach and share and laugh.”

Henry has artistic talent in his blood. His father, Raymond Shorty, and his uncles Rich and Eddie are all artists. He sold his first piece of art in a gallery at age 10.

“It’s part of my heritage, part of who I am — and I found out about who I am through this artwork,” Henry says. “Each piece has its own story, depicted from a certain story or legend. Your energy goes into the piece, so the more you have contact with it, it gives you ideas, or a story or image in your mind. What it wants to be, or how to follow the grain.”

The Days of Our Knives opens on Friday, March 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Arts Underground, located at 15, 305 Main St. The show runs until March 29.

For more information about the Northern Cultural Expression Society’s carving program for youth, call 633-4186 or email [email protected]