For those unfamiliar with art therapy, the term often evokes some colorful (pun intended) misinterpretations. If upon hearing the term you’ve found yourself asking (or silently thinking), “isn’t that just an art class for children?” or “that’s like therapy for artists, right?” or maybe “is that where a therapist stares at me while I draw my dreams?”, this post may be for you. (Okay, maybe you’ve got an idea of art therapy is all about, but the details are just a little fuzzy. This post is for you too!)
Although humans have been using art to communicate and express ideas since we were creating cave drawings in what is now Spain, art therapy, the therapeutic use of creating art, developed into a distinct discipline in the 1940s, and interestingly enough, sprang up separately in both Europe and America during that time.
Sometimes confused with an art class or something just for children, art therapy is a practice useful for individuals of all ages that promotes healing through the creative process and non-verbal artistic expression. Unlike an art class, it doesn’t focus on developing participants’ artistic skill level, but as Cathy Malchiodi explains in her book, The Art Therapy Sourcebook, “Art therapy asks you to explore your inner experience—your feelings, perceptions and imagination. While art therapy may involve learning skills or art techniques, the emphasis is generally first on developing and expressing images that come from inside the person, rather than those he or she sees in the outside world.”
For example, since 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has partnered with the U.S. military to create a program that helps wounded, ill, and PTSD-suffering service members and their families in “recovery, reintegration, or transition to civilian life.” One of the activities is the making of masks that specifically focuses on expressing the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a way many service members have been unable to express or discuss ever before. In research done on this activity in use with those suffering from PTSD and TBI, the NEA has “found that art therapy helps patients externalize and share experiences that they might be unable to express in any other way leading to unimagined new pathways of recovery.”
Art with Heart takes their books and program into schools, hospitals, and residential treatment facilities in the area, but has also worked with individuals and organizations all over the country and even into South America, from families who lost children in the Sandy Hook shooting, to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, to a refuge for teen mothers in Santiago, Chile.
Museo Art Academy has been a longtime fan of Art with Heart and the work that they do, so after attending Art with Heart’s Color of Hope Luncheon last October, we discussed ways that we could get involved and get our students involved with helping this awesome organization.
This last month, our students attended free workshops held at our studio where they created art work that will be photographed and printed upon sets of note cards, made to order. All the proceeds from these sales are going straight to Art with Heart. We had over 60 students attend these workshops and sold over 40 sets of note cards!
The other way we are raising money for Art with Heart this spring is our Happy HeARTs Fundraiser Open House we’ll be holding at our Issaquah studio on Friday, April 28. From 6-8pm we’re inviting our students, their families, and the community to join us in a night of family-friendly, artistic fun with painting, pottery wheel throwing, raffles, a silent auction, face-painting, and other fun activities! We’ll be selling tickets to participate once you get here, so you can bring cash or card, or pay with the card on your account (if you’re a student with us).
We’d love for you to join us in supporting this inspiring organization that’s making a difference in our community, and in communities across the country through art therapy. If you will not be able to make it to our fundraiser event, please consider donating to Art with Heart through our drive on our website. Every bit helps and all donations go towards helping kids who are hurting.
We know our students see the value of creating art in their own lives and we're so proud to see them wanting to bring that outlet to others who need to find a way to express emotions they may not yet have words for.
If you want to learn more about Art with Heart and the work they do, check out these videos on their site.