What is Expressive Arts?
How does it change people’s lives?
These are questions we are often asked.
In this new blog series – Expressive Arts in the World – we address these questions, as we share some very potent examples of how this work impacts the lives of real people, locally and globally.
This is work that people are hungry for. It is work that the world needs. It embraces the power of the imagination, and asks that we bring our whole selves, our best selves, to our lives, to those we serve, and to the earth itself. Expressive Arts is all about engaging and following the threads of creativity, in service of wellness, healing, wholeness, connection, community, and social change.
Today, in in this first post, we offer you a glimpse into our recent intensive – EAFI 220: Expressive Arts in the World – where we witnessed and engaged in the healing power of this work as it brings light and hope into the lives of isolated seniors in rural Ontario, to families impacted by cancer here in Florida, to human trafficking survivors in Nepal, to at-risk pregnant women, and more. We opened our voices, our hearts, our senses, and our imaginations.
By the time our students take this class, they have engaged in some deep personal work, learned the history of the field, have a working knowledge of some of the key approaches and foundations, and know the basic skills of facilitation and designing experiences. In this intensive we strive to expand their vision by exposing them to the global scope of expressive arts practice, and the myriad of forms this work can take.
We look to our worldwide and local network of colleagues, and we ask for help. We are met with a spirit of generosity and collaboration that is one of the hallmarks of the expressive arts community. We are amazed at what happens in this incredible weekend!
This year – our fifth time teaching this intensive – Stephanie Heidemann, Julia Riley, Deborah McKeever, and Patricia Manning joined us live in the studio, and Markus Scott-Alexander, Fiona Chang, Fay Wilkinson, Chandini Harlalka, and Belinda Rego guided and shared with us via Skype. By “traveling” to India, Hong Kong, rural Ontario and Edmonton, as well as learning from the vital Expressive Arts community right here in our own area, our students were enriched, inspired, and grateful.
All who participated in this intensive had the amazing opportunity to transcend borders, cultures, language, and challenging life situations through live presentations – both in person and via Skype – from India, Canada, Hong Kong and Nepal. This wonderful experiential learning process provided the opportunity to expand both personally and professionally through the universality of expressive arts. Patricia Manning, RN, BSN
Julia Riley’s presentation on Expressive Arts in End-of-Life Care, brought us into intimate connection, as we traced one another’s hands, and shared stories from our lives. The arts offer a rich venue for legacy work and for family support at the end-of-life, and Julia’s wisdom and vast experience were gratefully received by our students.
Fiona Chang, founder of Expressive Arts Hong Kong, facilitated an Imaginative Tea Ceremony of mindfulness, reflection, and intention setting, and shared her perspectives on expressive arts practice in Asia. Fiona blends Chinese metaphors, mindfulness and traditional rituals into the western model of expressive arts therapy to actualize the self-healing potential of each individual. Fiona was also Co-Chair of the 2015 IEATA conference in Hong Kong.
Stephanie Heidemann, creator of Authentic Voicework, invited us to paint a a collaborative landscape with our voices. With our eyes closed, our vocal sounds filled the room, and we could each “see” the landscape we were creating. The purity and interaction of our voices was deeply moving. This modality empowers the authentic self through the voice, unravels fear, and invites new creative freedom.
Deborah McKeever’s subject was Expressive Arts in a Mental Health Setting. She brought examples of client artwork and led us in making innovative “book puppets”. We brought our newly-created puppet personalities to the circle and she facilitated a group process, as she would do with her clients in a mental health setting at Centerstone. Speaking as the puppets means “one degree of separation” and easier self-disclosure. It was a lot of fun, too, and how wonderful it is to bring fun into mental health treatment.
One of the pioneers of the field – Markus Scott-Alexander – led us in a body-based expressive arts workshop, via Skype, from Edmonton, Alberta, home of his training program World Arts Organization. Markus is a senior faculty at European Graduate School. In some very powerful Dance Theatre work, he assisted us in exploring “presence”, “nurture”, “being reachable”, and more. Looking over the notes from his workshop, this phrase stands out: In expressive arts, we learn to live ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.
Fay Wilkinson delighted and inspired us as she skyped in from her Creative Cocoon studio in Eagle Lake, Ontario. Her Visible Voices video will move you, as it did us, and her Open Studio project is such a wonderful example of the inclusiveness of the arts. The scope of Fay’s work as is quite remarkable, and we just love having her with us!
Patricia Manning brings expressive arts into her work as a childbirth educator with at-risk pregnant mothers, providing these women with an opportunity to deepen and strengthen their relationship with their unborn baby. Patricia, also our Healthcare Liaison, will be bringing an expressive arts process celebrating inter-connectedness, to the upcoming American Holistic Nurses Association conference at the end of the month.
Chandini Harlalka and Belinda Rego joined us from Bangalore, India. Their presentation, entitled “Rangoli – Threshold Meditations” brought exquisite beauty and contemplative presence into the final day of our intensive. Drawing upon the traditional arts of India, and weaving them into expressive arts practice, Chand and Belinda guided us with loving presence to make traditional patterns with sand, embellish them with flowers and leaves, and then release our creations, and our intentions, back to Mother Earth.
Gloria Simoneaux’s international work with Harambee Arts brings expressive arts to provide healing and empowerment for survivors of human trafficking in Nepal. This short video from Kenya and Nepal will inspire you! Although Gloria wasn’t able to be in the studio with us, we felt the her presence ad her profound work.
I felt like I had truly taken a journey around the world. Each presenter not only shared their rich knowledge and specialization, but also facilitated an experience for us, so that our class had an international series of expressive art practices over our four days in Sarasota. I felt so filled with wisdom and inspiration from the array of globally recognized facilitators! The weekend truly enriched and sparked an amazing excitement in joining the expressive arts facilitation community. I can’t imagine a more expansive global exposure to expressive arts. A true blessing!…Dana Kuehn, M.S., LMHC, LPC.
On Friday evening, we facilitated some collaborative community art at the Towles Court Art Walk, engaging gallery visitors in art-making. Even making a mark on a visual art piece can be intimidating if believe yourself to be “not an artist”, and learning to facilitate others as they rediscover their creative self is a heart-opening experience. The students did a fantastic job!
During the art walk I was able to experience a profound moment with a gentleman who worked on the community mandala. I was able to be fully present for him as he made his pattern around the circle. He was moved by the experience and I was moved that something so simple as sitting with him and turning his paper so he could continue his work had impacted him so deeply. We both left changed from that experience and I will never forget it. …. Liz
A signature component of all of our training sessions is what we call a “visual arts container”. Each student works on a piece of art throughout the weekend, in response to each process they engage in. For this class, the visual arts container is a “map” of sorts. After each presentation, the students have an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned, and add to their map. At the end of the weekend, they have a tangible piece that they can take with them, and it holds the energy and learning from everything they have experienced during the intensive.
I found the map container to be the perfect metaphor for this class. Each time we connected with someone from the global or local community, the map gave me a chance to reflect. It’s a strong visual recollection of the experience, and I’m still mining insight from my map. More than anything I was blown away to see the strong connection Expressive Arts Florida Institute has with the global expressive arts community and how willing all the presenters were to share their experiences and time. Thanks to all. …….Debra
We all – students and faculty, and guest presenters – left this class experience with open hearts and expanded vision. Expressive Arts is grounded in some very solid principles of theory and practice, and, with that training, each professional practitioner can choose to take it in her/his own unique direction. The light of this work shines into the lives of individuals in therapy, patients in a healthcare setting, people at the end of life, community members looking for a safe place to explore their creativity. It addresses an array of social issues such as human trafficking, isolation of seniors, and the loss of indigenous arts in modern culture. In future posts, we will bring you more in-depth explorations of some of these settings.
Want to learn more?
*Be sure to have a look at the videos, websites, and links of all of these wonderful guest facilitators.
*Join our mailing list and receive our complimentary e-book: Step in to Your Personal Expressive Arts Practice.
*Join IEATA (International Expressive Arts Therapy Association)
*Our next intensives are:
We thank our amazing students! Each of you is cultivating a vision that will bring the power of Expressive Arts into the world in your own unique way.
With gratitude for our ability to practice this work,
Kathleen, Victoria, Tamara