Love Your Tree

Kate Clemmer, community outreach coordinator for the Eating Disorder Center at Sheppard Pratt, with the 2009 and 2010 winners of the "Love Your Tree" poster campaign. The annual event taps middle school, high school and college students to consider their thoughts on self image. (Photo by Noah Scialom / September 26, 2011)

"Like a Tree, My Body is…"

With those words, a poster campaign for eating disorders at Sheppard Pratt began six years ago and continues today, providing a creative and informative way to reach out to youth.

"It's unique because it is art-based," said Kate Clemmer, community outreach person for the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, of the poster campaign.

"It's a great opportunity to intertwine art and outreach for students, youth, organizations and campuses," she said.

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For the annual campaign, which is now open and runs through Dec. 16, each artist includes his or her own interpretation of how "like a tree my body is," Clemmer said.

She said examples of past responses include: "my body is strong," "holds a powerful spirit" and "has roots."

"The concept came from writer Eve Ensler's play called 'Good Body,'" said Julia Andersen, creator of the program. "It's where I got the inspiration."

Sheppard Pratt's Love Your Tree poster campaign is open to middle school, high school and college-age students throughout Maryland.

About 100 posters were submitted last year, Clemmer said, and each one was unique.

"Paint, pen and ink, collages, pastels and even yarn and fabric woven in," Clemmer said of past entries. "They're really creative."

The winning poster is used to help promote body image throughout the year, according to Clemmer.

Eating disorders are a growing issue, Clemmer said, especially in younger populations. While girls are commonly associated with the disorder, more and more males are suffering, too, Clemmer said.

"Our treatment center has various levels of care for kids and families struggling with eating disorders," Clemmer said. "It's less on how you actually look, but how you feel, and the belief you have of what you should look like."

As the winner of the 2010 "Like a Tree" poster contest, Kiley Baker, now a senior at Bel Air High School, called upon her own family and friends for motivation.

"One of my friends and somebody from my family (has an eating disorder)," Baker said. "It was a good thing for me to do. I had somebody in mind."

It took Baker 10 sketches to create the face looking out from the trees with butterflies flying.

"I wanted to draw something that would be very peaceful and beautiful to look at … to give freedom through whatever they were going through," Baker, 17, said. "That's what I was going for."

Andersen hosts workshops throughout the contest, visiting schools or organizations where she talks about the poster's purpose.

"The process of art-making can open up doors to how kids are feeling," Andersen said. "It is why I advocate for this program, and art in general. It is a different way to approach these difficult subjects. "

She stresses that the workshop is not therapy, but a "public education project."