Interview with Marywood’s (new) Director of Art Therapy

For my first time interviewing a member of the Art department, I had the honor to talk to Marywood’s new Director of Art Therapy: Professor Christina Taylor. We had a great conversation over Google Meet last week and I’m still thinking about how inspirational and insightful she was. While I was always excited to do the interview, I was extremely excited to learn that we both were familiar with gouache and clay as a creative outlet. I can confirm that Professor Taylor is a great person to have a conversation with, even if you’re like me and not directly an Art Major/part of the Art Department.

Below is the transcript from our conversation:

FR: So do you want to introduce yourself a little bit?

CT: My name is Christina Taylor. I’m the new Director of Art Therapy here at Marywood. I’ve now been here 3 months.(laughs) I’ve been an art therapist for 20 years. I have worked in inpatient hospitals, outpatient hospitals, schools, foster care agencies. You name it, I’ve probably seen it! I have a private practice here in New Jersey that I’ve had for about 10 years now. I actually live in New Jersey. I’m on a hybrid schedule as Director so I’m up in Scranton 3 or 4 days a week and then I work remotely the other 2.

FR: Interesting, so what attracted you to this career path?

CT: Well I was an art teacher for 9 years and many many moons ago. Actually I was teaching art on 9/11. Yeah, that’s how old I am. (laughs)

FR: What grade were you teaching?

CT: I happened to have a kindergarten class that morning. And then a few days later I had this same kindergarten class. Obviously because they were kindergartners that day, we were just sort of shielding them from everything that was happening. But you know, they had gone home and heard some things. A few days later when I had them again, there was a little boy in the class who was creating a drawing and he depicted a plane flying into one of the towers. And it was so powerful for me to think there’s this 5 year old child trying to make sense of what none of us adults could make sense of at the moment. It just kinda clicked to me, like wow I’ve always been an artist and an art teacher but maybe there’s something more that art making can do. I had not heard of art therapy, did a little research and I thought ah-ha, that’s for me. That’s where it started.

FR: That’s amazing, I love that. Did your idea of a career path match what you have now?

CT: Pretty similar, actually. I think because I was older so I had already been a teacher for 9 years in my 20s, so I was 30 when I went to grad school. So by that point I had already had a vision of being an art therapist and being an art therapist educator one day. You know, paths take their own circuitous route in life. I think predominantly the end goal kinda has come about, specifically with this position here at Marywood.

FR: That’s great! Do your personal and professional goals intertwine?

CT: Goals? Maybe. I think it’s more that my values are consistent across the board and the values that I carry personally are the values that I carry into every aspect of my life. I think that’s more the case.

FR: Are you working on any interesting side projects, just for yourself?

CT: Well, I’m pretty busy right now. (laughs) So you know, taking on this position has been quite a lot to acclimate to and get used to. I also have a son that just started high school so there’s all that. So I don’t really have a lot of time for side projects at the moment.

FR: What’s something that would surprise people about your day-to-day life?

CT: Well that’s an interesting question. What would surprise people? Probably how hectic it is, I think people see us from the perspective of how they know us. So there’s kinda a compartmentalization of that. Like you know, you see me here. Students see me there. Someone else sees me here. My son sees me here. But having been through the entire 14 hours of my day, it’s  pretty hectic and pretty compressed. I think there’s more globality and I think that’s true for everyone. You know, we all have a certain dynamic and there’s a lot more to us. I think that I hope the chaos and the hecticness will come down a little bit and I think I have hoped that for a long time now. (laughs)

FR: (laughs) You seem very calm. What’s your main creative outlet when you do have time?

CT: Clay. Yea, I’ve been a potter for a long time. I don’t get to do it as much as I would like.

FR: But you’ve made pieces before?

CT: Oh, yea. Hand building, wheel throwing, a mixture of the two. I started doing more painting, I prefer gouache. I’m not sure if you’re familiar…You probably are, most people usually aren’t.

FR: I took a few art history classes. What made you choose gouache specifically?

CT: I like the medium quality, the transparency, the opaqueness. It’s kinda a watercolor, kinda an acrylic. I like that flow. So that just seems to be a little more accessible sometimes when I’m home. But I’m hoping that in that moment when things calm down, that maybe I can start to do some stuff, maybe I can use the ceramics studio at Marywood.

FR:  Do you have any pictures of your pottery? 

CT: Yea, oh sure!

FR: I would love it if you could send some!

CT: Of course.

FR: How long have you been doing that?

CT: Well I started working with premade ceramics when I was like 11 or 12. Then I outgrew that pretty quickly because it’s like alright, I’m just painting these. Then that led me into how can I do this stuff on my own. It’s been a long time… most of my life. I feel like clay, there’s a very intrinsic connection I have with clay. I feel like I understand the clay, the clay understands me. It has its moods, just like we do as humans. Sometimes it’s cooperative, sometimes it’s resistant. Sometimes my mood and the clay are compatible and sometimes my mood and the clay aren’t compatible. So that’s always an interesting dynamic. I really love the idea of bringing something from the earth and creating through your own creative energies. Then having the finished product be part you and part Mother Earth. It really speaks to who I am as an individual and  my culture identities.

FR: I should look into clay, I have air dry clay at home that I play with a lot.

CT: Absolutely or take a ceramics class. Even if you feel like it’s not for you, it’s such a learning experience. You learn so much about yourself in the process of learning. Particularly in the process of learning to throw clay on the wheel. It’s a developmental process. Like can you withstand the resistance, can you withstand the disappointment? Because you will find those things but once you kinda move through that you’ll be like I did that. It’s like I did that, what else can I do?

FR: Do you have advice for art students, Marywood students in general, for me? (laughs)

CT: Specific to anything?

FR: Just in general. About life or adulthood, anything.

CT: Don’t rush into it. I think sometimes when we’re young, there’s this need to be a grown up. There’s this need to have independence. There’s this need to work. You will do all that the rest of your life. You will get to a point where you really get tired of doing all that. So really be present in this time of not having to do all of that at once or maybe not having to do all of it to the intensity that you will later in life. Be present now because this part of your life won’t come back. Be present in the next part of your life because it won’t come back. So be there for it, when you are.

FR: I needed to hear that. 

As the interview was coming to a close, she flipped the script and asked questions to get to know me better as well. She was curious about the art blog and I was proud to talk about how wide of an audience we have and the long list of weekly bloggers. After promising to email me a picture of her pottery portfolio, Professor Taylor signed off the call. I followed up to send her a direct link to the blog so hopefully she’ll find time to read this reflection. 🙂

Pottery by Christina Taylor

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