By Linda Johnson.
Each month a new project is designed, to first and foremost, bring out a smile! Smiles are the very best therapy. Secondly, to come up with an idea that seems like magic. Usually, that in itself, will bring out a smile. There is nothing that creates new neural pathways better than curiosity.
My challenge is to take an idea, that interest me, then transform it into a simple activity. I try to incorporate an intellectual element into the activity usually, in it’s design. Also a fun artistic element to bring out each client’s creative side.
I devote quite a bit of time and thought to the activity’s development. I walk through every aspect of the hour long project analyzing any stumbling blocks I may find along the way. I rethink that particular steps and iron out any obstacles.
I want each client to move freely, through the activity. There will always be areas where clients will need help so I try to make sure I can be by their side if these occasions arise.
Each activity starts with an enthusiastic hello and a big smile. The first few minutes of the hour is devoted to a simple discussion about the particular topic. If, for instance, the activity is felting, we would discuss how sheep are sheared, how the wool is prepared and dyed. How agitation locks the fibers together and any new vocabulary, like felting!
I try to come up with the most thought provoking activity I can. I want each client to feel that I value their intelligence and really appreciate any time and attention they spent sharing the activity I have prepared for the group. That said; I want to introduce them to good quality materials, when ever possible. Quality materials usually produce quality results. That make for a happy, satisfied client and a very happy resident artist!
When designing each project, I try to keep in mind the abilities of the groups. I try to find the project challenging enough to keep their interest, yet not to the point of the client becoming discouraged. I do ant the clients to feel like it was their creation . This is a challenge with such a variety of disabilities. Each center has between 2 and 16 clients at any given time so I have to be prepared to accommodate as many as would like to join in the activity.
In researching programs for the disabled, I am confused as to exactly why, where and when art therapy finds it’s way into a program. It seems vocational graining centers for the developmental disabled have little or no art programs. Do the clients have to fit a certain criteria before art programs are introduced? Art therapy varies from facility to facility. I found some programs introduce theater and dance but no visual art. Where visual arts are introduced, it seems to be geared towards process. Connecting emotion with material. There seems to be a gap between using no art therapy for vocational purposes and art therapy as a tool for helping with mental disorders
If art therapy worlds, why is it lacking so in the overall programs for the disabled.
My concerns are with product and marketing the work. I worked with a local vocational training center years ago helping the clients set up a screen printing area. It never dawned on me that it felt like an ‘institution’. I found only positive enthusiasm about their facility and a drive to turn out great prints.
In working with the clients, I do have ‘salable art’ in the back of my about. The challenge is in coming up with a desirable object, present it in a fashion suitable for marketing i.e. framing, etc. then finding a venue for selling it.
I realized funding is an issue. I feel that if I could ever get the product and venue established, the work would sell itself. Having a location that we can promote as a ‘go to’ for a hand made gifts and an easy way to support the disabled, would be so great.
I don’t expect every activity to produce a salable work of art. I have come to realized some clients are very possessive and others can’t wait to gift it over.
I will find a comfortable balance between the two somehow. All activities don’t have to be product related, some months I want the clients to just have fun. Just the sheer joy of doing it!