Part II: Art of Connection

“Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.” American Art Therapy Association

(Still in tha flow . Unedited) Why do I go so hard for Black art therapists? Acknowledging. Celebrating. Encouraging us. Cos, for one, most of us attended predominately white institutions to get our graduate art therapy degrees, and many of us were traumatized during our training journeys. And no, I am not using the word traumatized lightly, or in gist.

Many of us experienced institutional oppression in education and hella microagressions on the daily. Understandably so, these painful grad school experiences resulted in many of us practicing in isolation.  Many of us are not active in local or national efforts or art therapy organizations.  Many of us do not share our research or personal practices with the larger art therapy community. Like I said, it’s understandable and I get it on a very personal level. Nonetheless, we wholeheartedly put in work, especially in our communities, but many us of do so in the seclusion of our personal and professional lives.

Also, I go hard for Black art therapists, because we [self and community] need to see ourselves. Black people need to see us in this field of mental health and wellness.  As professionals, we need to see ourselves. As researchers, we need to see ourselves. And our communities need to see us, they need to know we exist. Individuals who are seeking support in bettering their mental and emotional health deserve options.  Overall, as Black people and therapists, we are not a monolith, so there needs to be an array of therapists who practice from varying frameworks and approaches. [Repetition is never for the weary—WE NEED TO SEE OURSELVES.]

“Colorblindness is the racial ideology that posits the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity.”         Monnica T Williams Ph.D

Moreover, it is my hope that with more Black art therapists, cultural sensitivity and competency will gain more traction in the field:

  • We are not colorblind. Race, culture and ethnicity matter. We need to see us.
  • Stereotypes, stigmas and pathology are deeply rooted in the field of psychology, the art world, and the art therapy realm. Therefore, we are needed to deconstruct these wrongs. We need to see us.
  • The “white savior” complex and power differentials in the client-therapist relationship need to be further acknowledged and We need to see us.

ONCE AGAIN, Black folk are not “one size fits all,” neither are Black art therapists. We be human. We have different ideologies—some conservative, while others are more progressive. Also, all of us do not want to only practice in our communities, with our people, that’s a personal decision. But the point still remains, more of us are needed in the field. Diversity is needed. And though we experience challenges in the profession, we are 100% ART THERAPISTS and undoubtedly know the healing and therapeutic effectiveness of art therapy.

So, Part II of my Art of Connection (A of C) posts, is to acknowledge the presence and the work of three sistas who are in the A of C exhibition. They are in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s, Master of Arts in Art Therapy program, Class of 2016.

“The Box Redefined” (Yemonja S. & students)

“Activism Through Art” (Pierra B.)

“In Their Words” (Naima T.)

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January 31–February 14
Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State St., 7th floor; Free and open to the public Tuesday–Saturday, 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.

The Art of Connection exhibition showcases artwork by graduate art therapy students and the individuals they work with at their internship sites. Artwork in the show reflects the varied settings, populations, and practices of art therapy, and represents a culmination of the Master of Arts in Art Therapy program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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