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Spirituality, Art Therapy and Inclusion

One morning while working in a retirement community a woman in her late 80's came into the studio at 7am and she stated, "This is the only place that was open and has its lights on." I welcomed her in and she shared that she just learned this morning her niece unexpectantly died as she wiped her tears away she stated, "She was named after me. We shared a name and I know it sounds strange but it's as if a piece of me died too this morning." This woman proceeded to come to the studio almost daily and weeks after engaging in art therapy with me she stated,

"The studio is a sanctuary."

This phrase stuck with me and all the things I learned from Bruce Moon in class and texts about art therapy as an act of love and the reason I got into this field to serve others all started to flood back into my mind.

Mimi Farrelly-Hansen wrote:

"The individuals who come to the studio are those who are vulnerable, scared, hurting; those who have been abandoned, abused, outcast. They are in need. I offer them tubes of paint, pastel sticks, paper, canvas and crayons as if I were offering starving persons food by which to be sustained. Sometimes they balk or turn away, suspicious and fearful of what I offer. I let them know this is okay, but I leave the art materials there anyway, in case they decide they are willing to risk being fed. I don't try to convince them that art will provide emotional and spiritual nourishment. Instead, I let them witness it. They see others dab creamy paint colors on canvas carefully glue beads on the edges of a clay piece. They bear witness to a community of people who, in the midst of their own emotional starvation, not only are being fed but also are feeding each other by the small acts of their creation."