Why I Love Art
July 20, 2019
I have decided to start focusing my blogs on a specific topic for the remainder my time here at Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA). This week, I will explain to my amazing readers why I love art and how I am creating art at ITA.
Unfortunately, my artistic drive originated during a very dark time in my life. When I was twelve, I was ruthlessly bullied by a group of girls in my class. No one really understood the pain these girls’ words caused me, but when I was upset by them, I would draw. The creative process was incredibly cathartic for me, and whenever I finished a drawing I would always feel better about myself. Since then, I’ve tried out a multitude of art mediums, many of which I have loved, and others, not so much. I enjoy 2D the most, including things like pencil, charcoal, acrylic paint, watercolor, ink and collage, but I do dabble in the world of 3D, making hanging Rauchenburg-style sculptures out of found objects.
In college, as one of the only artists in several different clubs and a research lab, I was thrust into the world of graphic design, even though I had never used a computer to make art before! However, over time I managed to teach myself how to take my keen eye for art and apply it to the posters, social media posts, stickers, t-shirts, and other things I’ve designed for my clubs and research lab. The design work I did at Cornell helped me get my internship at ITA, where I am now working on flyer and brochure designs that will be seen by hundreds of creative arts therapists from around the country. ITA is helping me improve my graphic design skills by challenging me to think up new and innovative designs that I can add to my professional design portfolio. Throughout my time at both Cornell and ITA, I have honed my design ability into a marketable skill that will impress any future employer. Now, my supervisors are pushing me to take topics and transform them into metaphors within my designs. For instance, turning “Bringing Something to the Surface” into an image of water with light shining through, as if the camera is swimming up for air. Art is all about the metaphor, and ITA is helping me create interesting metaphors within my work.
Additionally, my love of art has translated well into the therapy world because it connects people. Everyone has an art form, be it drawing, knitting, dancing, acting, cooking, playing music, etc. Talking about the art forms we love is an easy way to relate to someone and build rapport, and even though I am not a musician myself, I have found joy and connection with the clients I see for music therapy. For instance, on Wednesday, while observing and assessing the music therapy campers, I was able to point out specific campers that have made huge improvements in their social skills. I can’t help but be proud of the new friendships and coping skills the campers have developed over the last three weeks. Seeing the way music has brought the campers together despite their differences has made me realize how powerful music (and other art forms) can be as a therapeutic tool.
On Wednesday evening, I enjoyed making art with another client with anxiety issues. We traced the outlines of our bodies on large sheets of paper, and using different colors to represent different emotions, filled in the places on our bodies where we feel scared, angry, happy, worried, excited, etc. Art is a great way to express how clients’ (and I) feel. Emotional expression through art removes the heavy weight of stress and anxiety from everyone; clients and therapists alike. The client had so much fun, she couldn’t wait to show her art to her mom after the session. It was easy to see her anxieties were replaced by joy.
Art was able to provide relief for the anxious client and help the campers build relationships. Art connects people through expression, and that is why I love it so much.
Alexa is a psychology and studio art double major and art history minor from Chicago, Illinois.