Yesterday was our first arts-based workshop of the autumn season provided for a dynamic group of administrators, physicians, and clinicians at Elmhurst Hospital Center along with my esteemed colleague from the Whitney Museum of American Art. With an original screen print by abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler as our focal point, hospital employees embarked on a “close looking” exercise involving guided observation of the art work. This moment of mindfulness was followed by rich discussion around the materials used, background of the artist, and personal reflections about the piece.
Frankenthaler is quoted as saying, “There are no rules. Let the picture lead you where it must go.” Indeed, her intuitive, open approach to art-making provided a wonderful segue for the personal art-making experience to follow and inspired our use of fluid, wet media. Participants were invited to engage in an adapted open studio process approach to art therapy, including embodied breathing for grounding, free associative writing for creativity development, art-making with playful, non-traditional mixed media, personal self reflection, and group sharing for synthesis and community building.
One participant shared how the liquid watercolor kept dancing around the page each time she shifted her position, resulting in imagery and a “final” product that was ever-changing. Although challenging to try to control the drops at first, she reflected on how this constant movement and evolution of her piece was actually a refreshing and exciting example of surrendering to not knowing what to expect as opposed to trying to control the outcome. It was a beautiful demonstration of art as therapy, requiring creative problem solving, frustration tolerance, self compassion, and reframing of perspective to come to this conclusion. These are certainly skills that can also be applied to daily life while managing stressors in a demanding hospital environment. We hope that the creative experience we provide and the artwork on display in the institution itself will serve as reminders of each individual’s own creative resilience. #artastherapy #artheals #caregiverburnout #healthehealer
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
Original photos courtesy of Elmhurst Hospital Center