Saturday, March 15, 2014

Andrea Boyadjis Shares Additional Insights About Art Therapy and The Power of Play

If I've learned anything from my years of interviewing artists, it's that so often there is such a vast depth beyond the surfaces we encounter when we rub shoulders on a trolley or pass one another on a sidewalk. It shouldn't surprise us at how much is going on in other peoples' heads once they have an opportunity to give expression, especially younger people. We ourselves were once young. There was so much bubbling around in there.

Thus I found it refreshing to meet Sarah Riley and Andrea Boyadjis at the North Pole Beer for Bowls event in January. When I discovered that in addition to enjoying ceramics that they were also involved in art therapy, I felt impelled to follow up. Yesterday I shared some of Sarah Riley's ideas and thoughts about art as therapy. This morning I want to share some of Andrea's insights.

Andrea Boyadjis is a recent grad of UWS, currently working on her Master's there. Late last fall she began working with the Boys and Girls Club as an art instructor. "I helped out in other ways like the game room and making sure the kids were safe and still having fun. For face value with the kids, I am an Art Instructor but to the Supervisor there and to the head of the Art Therapy program I am a student bringing Art Therapy into the experience of the Boys and Girls Club.”

Her main goal at this time is to encourage the kids that Art can be more than the finished product. As she spends time with the kids she is having them make art journals in addition to their weekly projects.

“The aim of this process, to me, is to encourage reflection in a visual way. Some of my first project ideas after the journals are made would be more interactive than writing or drawing on a journal page. My favorite idea is to make dream catchers and then allow for journal time after the project is finished. Within this time I will give them writing/drawing prompts like: What are some of your biggest dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up? What was a scary nightmare you had recently? When you are scared what do you do or think of to make yourself feel better? Once the session is closed there will be a place to put the journals so that every time we meet we can take time to open them up again and look over what we did last session and then repeat the process.”

The journals and revisiting previous work adds a measure of continuity to the processes of exploration and discovery. Time, then, becomes one of the ingredients in a successful session.

"These sessions last about 30-45 minutes so my biggest challenge is having everything ready and making sure the kids have enough time to reflect, make a project, journal and reflect again or maybe share some of their projects with the group. I have a few sessions every time I go into the Boys and Girls Club. I work around what the expectations are for some of the programs there. One of them is Smart Girls where it sets up goals and teaches coping mechanisms etc. They have programs there for boys as well.

"After these sessions are over I stay and continue to work on my Practicum in a more informal way. Since the Boys and Girls Club allows the kids to pick and choose what activities to go to there will be times I miss connecting with some kids in a more formal Art Therapy session. As a result I will have the chance to interact with the kids by participating in what they do.

“Many don't realize the power of play. There are many times that, for younger kids, they recreate their thoughts or feelings in the form of play. As a participant of this 'play therapy' I would be narrating what the child is doing or asking open ended questions to see where the story of the play session will go next. Something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I see you put a red Lego on top of that black one.’ And the child can have the chance to explain why they chose to do it and in a way begin the story line.

"By doing some of these less formal sessions with the kids, I hope to create more rapport with them as well as help them make connections to their personal life and play. By being a safe person to connect with, the child will have the chance to exchange with me some of their worries and hopes without discouragement or ridicule."

It all goes back to those basic elements: connection, reflection, affirmation. Isn't that what we're all seeking for most of our lives?

Last night's exhibition of Doodles at the PROVE Gallery in Duluth was quite enjoyable. I wish them well when they strive to return the space to white on white for their next show.

And finally, on this date in 1997 Victor Vasarely died, a painter who could perhaps be knighted as the father of Op-Art. When he painted his zebras in the 30's he was an artist ahead of his time. You can check out his work here through Google.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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