When and where did you receive your degree? I received my Art Therapy degree from Pratt Institute in 2002
What drew you to the field? I believe the universe puts you where you need to be if you’re still (and brave) enough to listen. I say that because I truly believe the field of Art Therapy found me! My undergraduate degree was in creative writing. At the time, all I wanted to do was live on a sailboat and write poetry – this vision ranked pretty high on romanticism but particularly low on practicality. So, after graduation, I took a job in the publishing field doing editing, design and layout. This paid the bills but left me within shouting distance of a truly creative life. Then one day in a local coffee shop, I ran into an artist friend of mine. He listened as I shared my feelings of loss for a sense of purpose in my life. It was way too easy to blame the job or the relationship that I was in at the time, but in those gaps of experience, my soul knew it wasn’t those other things – it was me. My friend looked me squarely in the eye and said, “You need to talk to my ex-girlfriend. She’s an art therapist…I think you’re an art therapist, too.” I called that ex-girlfriend – Deb Shoemaker, the very next day! Deb was gracious enough to tell me all about art therapy and all the pre-requisites I would need to apply to graduate school. From that day forward, everything fell into place in divine order – I had found my truth. We are each other’s keepers – Thank you, Deb Shoemaker!
What kind of work are you doing currently? Currently, I am a Wilderness Therapist at Trails Carolina near Asheville, NC. I work with adolescent girls, ages 14-17. The girls that I see have typically failed in traditional therapeutic settings and are having trouble in school and/or not thriving at home. I believe adolescence is a time when girls need to be seen and known the most. Wilderness therapy allows kids to unplug and reconnect…to each other, to nature, but more importantly, to themselves. I think kids who are aware, tend to become “others aware” and then world aware. Out in the woods, I slow things down and invite a student to use their hands for understanding and discovering themselves through metaphor and creative expression.
Are you creating your own art? Favorite media? Inspiration? I love found objects! Rusty metal, torn pieces of paper revealing half a word or phrase, etc. Sometimes those pieces make it into a painting or sometimes an assemblage. I love the idea of organizing fragmented, discarded pieces into something repurposed – so it breathes life again. Lately, I’ve been really drawn to textiles – weaving, fabric, felt/fiber. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, but the process has been amazing!
What do you like to do in your free time? Usually you will find me on a trail out in the woods with my dogs. A walk in the woods has become a spiritual practice, especially early morning because there’s no one around to remind me who I’m supposed to be so it’s easier to remember who I am. Recently, I’ve also been helping out in the Asheville Poverty Initiative Café that “rescues” unused food from local restaurants and serves meals at no charge in hopes to build relationships – “the table is a great equalizer.”
What are your hopes for art therapy in North Carolina? Boy! Not sure how to answer this one. Maybe I’m still grieving the recent election…but what comes up for me is the hope that we find ways to connect to each other. We are all more alike than we are different. We need to find ways to get to know each other. We fear what we don’t know, and what we fear, we destroy. I would love to create a collaborative piece of art with you all to start to heal our wounds in some way. Just seems to me that it’s going to take our collective creativity to lessen this divide. As art therapists, I believe our job is not just story teller, but story holder…
Anything else? There is no difference between art and prayer to me. Maybe because creating never feels like it comes “from” me but rather, “through” me. My biggest challenge has always been to silence the ego long enough to allow that process to occur, but there is a certain wisdom that comes from turning 50. I used to think being an “artist” meant that you had to have created at least one piece of art worthy of a gallery hanging/showing. Now I believe a true artist lives their life as a piece of art – from those we choose to call friends to preparing a simple meal. I’m reminded of my favorite St. Francis quote: “Preach always. If necessary, use words.” My email address is: email@example.com