Edinboro department offers art therapy sessions on Zoom

Categories:  The Arts    News
Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 1:22 PM

A living room, a dining room, a kitchen and perhaps a bedroom. All different digital windows occupied by their own different people. Yet, they are all joined by one purpose: the healing power of art. 

Art therapy is being offered to Edinboro students and their families, moving to Zoom due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions were being offered in-person and on-campus by the Counseling, School Psychology and Special Education Department before the university’s closing. 

In an email to students, Dr. Penelope Orr, a professor in the department, offered students the opportunity to participate in art therapy “as part of our attempts to meet the needs of our students and their families during this time of shut down of schools and isolation.” 

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for art making with each other,” Orr continued. “We plan to hold an open art therapy group online at the following days and times each week. You are welcome to attend with family if they are also looking for [a] creative outlet during this time of isolation.” 

The day and time of the Zoom calls, as well as the links, are: 

·         Fridays – 6-8 p.m.,  https://edinboro.zoom.us/j/915609242 

·         Saturdays – 10 a.m. to noon, https://edinboro.zoom.us/j/148953120 

·         Sundays – 2-4 p.m., https://edinboro.zoom.us/j/8295 

Like in their regular studio hours, all participants are encouraged to create a piece of art, through whatever medium they choose, based on a creative prompt.

For example, in the Zoom session on Saturday, March 28, participants were given an hour to create a piece based on one of two prompts. The first was to create an “animal totem” that they felt represented themselves or their family, while the other option was to create a design or environment around their name. While these prompts were offered, each participant’s interpretation was different from the other, allowing many different pieces to emerge after the hour had passed. 

Due to privacy, names of participants will not be shared, but several found the March 28 Zoom experience to be helpful. 

One person described art therapy as “freeing,” citing the ability to do art “without judgement” as especially rewarding. Referencing the pandemic, they described the session as “perfect timing.” 

Another simply said, “Art heals.” 

One participant agreed to speak on their longer-term experiences with art therapy. Psychology major Victoria Manzano — featured previously in Volume 118, Issue 16 of The Spectator (as the publication’s “Artist Spotlight”) — has been participating in Open Art Therapy Studios since last academic year.  

While she had been attending the art therapy sessions in person, Manzano has actually seen greater overall participation in the Zoom sessions. Citing the fact that the art therapy graduate program is online, it seems more are able to attend this way. “There are people that I don’t even know, and I’ve been attending art therapy studio for a while,” she said. 

Manzano described what initially drew her to art therapy, which was “the notion that the act of art-making can be therapeutic.” 

She said, generally, art is made for the enjoyment of others, “as opposed to art therapy, where it’s much more about making art that you enjoy.” 

In addition, Manzano said one can gain a deeper insight into their emotions when participating in the sessions. “When you’re doing art in that setting, things just kind of pop out when you don’t expect or intend them to.” 

While the change to Zoom is certainly different, it’s a change Manzano seems to prefer. “When you’re in the art therapy studio, and this is just my experience…but I know when I’m in the studio in a group of people like that, I can kind of very easily fall back into the shadows,” she said. “I can kind of forget that I am present, that I have a voice, that I should be here, that I am allowed to take up space, whatever it is. I just kind of withdraw.” 

She continued: “With the online art therapy, I feel like it’s a lot more personal, a lot more individualized. You each have your own specific space, your own square on the screen.” 

Overall, she described having one’s own space, along with the power to mute/unmute her microphone as “empowering.” You also have the ability to turn off and on your camera.  

Especially in troubling times, Manzano said that art therapy “gives you an opportunity to slow down.” When experiencing “chaotic, puzzling emotions,” it helps to release that tension, she stated. 

“When you put [your thoughts] on paper, you’re giving each emotion its own little space so it doesn’t have to take up space in your head. Even if you just get a little of it out on paper, or whatever medium you’re using, you can have a lot more space to just breathe.” 

Manzano also found that art therapy participants are supportive of one another. “You can see the warmth and friendliness on everyone’s faces,” she said. 

“I have trouble making eye contact with people a lot…with my anxiety,” she explained, adding that she can get past the “fear that they’d be judging me or criticizing me because when I look up, I see smiles and I see attentive, listening faces.” 

She also pointed out the importance of having a routine when face-to-face interaction is limited.  

Manzano has ADHD, and thus finds it difficult to keep to a routine. However, the block of time set aside for art therapy gives “security.” 

She explained: “OK, from this time until noon, I’m going to hang out with art therapy people. That’s where I am. I know where I’m going to be, and everything’s OK. Especially in times where everything else is uncertain, at least I have a little ship in the midst of a crazy wave.” 

For more information about art therapy and their remote conferencing sessions, contact Dr. Penelope Orr at (814) 732-1684, or porr@edinboro.edu.

How do I use Zoom?

Click on the above links at the appropriate times. You can either download Zoom and attend through the app, or you can run it through your internet browser. You can attend the meetings through your desktop or mobile devices.  

Tags: coronavirus

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