Hi everyone, this post is about Marywood University’s Graduate Art Therapy Program and the opening reception of the SOAR exhibition. The opening reception was on December 13, in the Suraci Gallery in the Shields Center for Visual Arts. The following description of the opening reception was written by Dr. Hartman and Paige Owings:
On December 13, the Graduate Art Therapy Program hosted the opening reception for Sculpting Expression: Communicating Through Claywork held in the Suraci Gallery in the Shields Center for Visual Arts. The exhibition included artwork from the SOAR students that was created over the fall semester as part of a narrative approach to art therapy. The reception took place in the afternoon and it gathered 58 guests who enjoyed the artwork, spoke with the student artists, and left comment cards.
Paige Owings, our fabulous graduate student, worked with the SOAR group over 15- weeks. As a ceramic artist, she focused her work exclusively on experientials that explored clay work. As part of her internship, she assisted in my pilot research exploring the therapeutic effects of clay work that was modeled after my dissertation research. Paige guided the SOAR students in developing their own unique collections and artist statements. She focused on sculpting and working with various types of clay. The students also participated in the creation of three collaborative group artworks: A Beautiful Picnic, The SOAR Village, and A Day in the Ocean claymation video that was presented in the gallery. In addition, Dr. H and Paige co-facilitated an adapted version of Touch in Real Time, a ceramic project by Dr. H’s previous mentor and friend, Holly Hanessian. The project is socially-engaging art that emphasizes the experience of shaking hands while holding clay and having conversations.
This fall, Paige has worked with the unique talents and personalities of the students. She really highlighted the imagination and unique interests of the students with sensitivity, inspiration, and creativity. Paige really applied her own talents as a ceramic artist to the students in a creative way. She demonstrated the nature of being a therapist/artist while co-curating the exhibition with the students and myself. The students were proud and excited to host their collections in the gallery. Family members and friends offered up positive words and responded by the inspiration they experienced viewing all the work that was present in the gallery.
Paige Owings, our Graduate Art Therapy Practicum/ Intern at SOAR reflected on her experience in her practicum/internship this fall:
“It has been an absolute honor to have the opportunity to work with the individuals of the SOAR program over the course of the semester. I have witnessed each and every one of them grow in their own ways, and make unbelievable progress in achieving new milestones. With each new clay-based art directive, I watched them become more comfortable with the medium; more confident in their abilities; and more flexible and creative with their pieces.
Having the opportunity to allow this creative process to come to a culminating end with the gallery exhibition felt like a validation of not only the artistic work that had been done, but the therapeutic work as well. Witnessing the pride that the students had in talking about their art, and the delight of them seeing their artwork in a gallery has been incredibly rewarding. These individuals deserved representation and recognition for the hard work they had done with me over 15 weeks, and I could not have asked for a more receptive space to showcase our work together.
John Meza, the gallery director, and Sarah Pfeil, the gallery assistant, were both fabulous to work alongside of when co-curating the exhibition. They both understood and respected the importance of this work, and allowed the artwork to speak for itself in the space. This exhibition walked the line between expressive, therapeutic art and fine art. While each piece was created with the intention to express and narrate a self-story, formal elements of design were not neglected. John and Sarah went to great lengths to ensure that each artist was highlighted and represented in a unique way, and that their artwork was pleasing to look at. I cannot thank either one enough for their contributions to this journey.”
Our previous graduate art therapy student Taylor, who worked with the SOAR program in spring 2019, commented on her experience in the gallery as well:
“Attending the gallery exhibit was an absolute honor. As a past art therapy intern for the SOAR program, it was truly incredible to witness the continuation of these individuals’ creative process. It is clear that each artist had a unique story that they wanted to tell, and the way that the exhibit was set up granted them with the opportunity to express their individual voices. Watching each artist proudly display their work and interact with spectators was a beautiful experience, and one that I know many viewers cherished as well. Although the SOAR program is so heavily integrated into Marywood University, it is rare for the students to have an opportunity to show their creative expressions in this way. There is no doubt that this experience was both exciting and enriching for all of those who attended, and one that will never be forgotten. I am eternally grateful to have been a witness of this show and to continue our SOAR and Marywood Graduate Art therapy connection in the future. All of the artists, teachers, and their incredible Art therapy intern, Paige Owings, deserve a huge congratulations for their dedicated and meaningful work.”
Other gallery visitors completed comment cards for the artist. A few reflected on their experience of attending the reception and seeing the show.
“The artists of SOAR showed a lot of potential to contribute to the community of Marywood, Scranton. The exhibition emphasized how much they benefited from the art making process. I saw how they interacted and engaged with the audience and directives such as Touch in Real Time were interesting. In addition, their work can be an inspiration to many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
“The gallery show was beautifully executed! I’m proud of the SOAR students for creating amazing work. I was honored to talk and engage with each student about their creations. Each piece of art expressed creative expression and skill. They did a wonderful job!”
We give a special thanks to our Gallery Director, John Meza, for working with us and allowing this exhibition to happen. Stay tuned to keep updated with the next specialized show for the SOAR group in the Spring.