Facing Change: Art Therapy Access Program

Facing Change: Art Therapy is the culmination of a year’s worth of art therapy collaborations at 4 partner sites around the city. Karen Peacock and Sarah Hamil are the two art therapists who have worked with the participants to provide a meaningful outlet of self-expression.  The resulting exhibition consists of 70 masks that represent each participant. Art therapist Karen Peacock shares some thoughts and details, below:

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In 2013, four community organizations participated in the Art Therapy Access Program.  The groups were structured according to the needs of the partnering organization in terms of when they met, how often, and where.  At each organization there were between 2 and 4 groups of participants.  The VA Medical Center groups met twice a week year round, Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home met twice a week in the spring,  UT’s Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program met every day for two weeks in the summer, and Shelby County School’s Day Treatment Program met twice a week in the fall.  Most of the groups visited the museum several times during the year, with the exception of the Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program which held all of its sessions at the museum.

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For most of the participants, it was their first experience in the museum.  They developed meaningful relationships with the museum docents and were able to relate their personal lives to many pieces of art they viewed in the galleries.  The groups worked with a variety of materials through out the art therapy sessions, but the main project was mask making, which is the focus of the culminating exhibition.

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In art therapy, masks are considered a container for one’s feelings.  This activity allowed the participants to explore these feelings in a safe and creative way. The goal of this exhibition is to instill confidence and a sense of belonging among the participants, as well as educate the community about the therapeutic benefits of museum based art therapy programs.

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The variation is a reflection of the variety of groups that participated.  The masks are not sectioned off according to each organization, but mixed.  Each participant is so unique, which comes out in the art.  The art directive was to create a mask portraying an emotion they don’t normally show others.  Afterwards, they were asked to name their mask and create a dialogue (what would your mask say if it could talk?).  There was demonstration on how use the material (plaster strips), but they had the freedom to use it how they wanted. Many were inspired by masks they saw on exhibit in the permanent African Art exhibit.

In art therapy, the focus is not so much on the final product as the creative process involved.

The opening reception will be held Saturday, January 18th at 11am, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Education Gallery.

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