37 Creating a Program in Expressive Arts

Ariana Salvanelli

Elene Gedevanishvili, Plymouth State University IDS Major

This interdisciplinary program combines two completely different fields and merges them in to one. I believe that art is one of the best ways to express yourself. This program is really unique; it is designed to help people of all ages, and even for those who speak different languages. For some people struggling with mental illness, it is easier to express themselves through art, especially for those with mental disabilities that affect their speech: illnesses such as autism or down syndrome. There are theories and studies about mental illness in art.  Expressive Arts programs can also help people build their creativity, and keep the results that patients create in therapy.

Many students that create IDS contracts are influenced by personal experiences. Personal experiences definitely help with motivation to learn about specific topics, motivation that many students lack when they first start college. Personal experience also helps students to set goals, and they see clearer who they want to become in future.

Expressive Arts
Ariana Salvanelli, Plymouth State University IDS Major

CC BY NC SA Lars Hammar

The title I have chosen to name my program here at the Plymouth State is “Expressive Arts”. I have created this program by combing a variety of courses from the Art and Psychology Departments that I feel will help me reach my future goal of becoming an art therapist. Each course was chosen with careful consideration. I wanted to make sure that the individual art and psychology courses I chose were ones that would benefit me in the future. What I was aiming for was art courses that focused more on materials, and techniques and psychology courses that were more treatment based. This is unique in the way that I wish to work with people. Art therapy is more concerned with the process rather that product the patient creates. Through creating art, I hope to build creativity and confidence within my clients.

I created this program to not only set me on a track to attend graduate school after graduating here at PSU, but to also capture the essence of what expression through the arts meant to me. I know that personally art has helped me immensely through hard times and I want to be able to share that with others. There are so many individuals in this world that are going through something whether it be clinical depression, crippling anxiety, or chronic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and art gives them a voice. Illness like these are sometimes difficult to express verbally because they are something that the patient deals with on an everyday basis, and it becomes a type of normalcy they learn to accept. By using abstract treatments, such as the creation of art, the patient is given the freedom to define their disorders on their terms.

The reason why I felt as though no other programs here at Plymouth State fit my needs is because I want to be able to integrate specific knowledge and apply it to a meaningful goal. The interdisciplinary program gives me the freedom to explore other areas of study I would not be able to do with a traditional degree offered right now. As I stated before I have deliberately chosen specific process based art courses to give me a wide range of mediums to work with for future clients. I have also gone through and selected specific psychology courses that focus on treatment and understanding women, which is the demographic I am most interested in.

The courses in the art department I have included in my contract contain a wide variety of mediums. Art Foundations 3D: Materials and Meaning is a class I have already taken. It taught me how to connect different materials to the process of creation. We worked with a wide range of supplies, such as wire, clay, water proof paper and plywood to build a full functioning boat. In addition, we used a computer software called Meshmixer to create models of our heads to print with Plymouth’s new 3D Printer.  This provided me with a sturdy but basic understanding of different three dimensional mediums as well as unique ways I can utilize them. Art Foundations 2D: Composition and Content is a course I will be taking in the fall semester of 2017. It will not only provide me with a rudimentary understanding of various two dimensional mediums, but will also teach me how to critically think when it comes to creative problem solving. This is a skill I can use to help clients in the future by showing the different ways to go about tackling issues in their everyday lives.  I am currently taking Art Foundations Drawing: Line and Language and decided to include it in my contract because drawing is an essential medium when it comes to art therapy. We are learning many different drawing techniques that will be extremely beneficial when working with patients. Showing them different way of drawing such as gesture drawing or finding the negative space in a landscape will give a person more creative freedom when working. The ceramics course I settled on was Foundations of Ceramics: Exploration. I decided on this course rather than “Wheel Expressions” because I realized that not everyone will have access to a wheel. Although this class does include some wheel work, it also focuses a lot on utilizing the true organic nature of clay. Clay is a beautiful medium to take advantage of in art therapy due to its malleability and ease of use. Since paint is the number one two dimensional medium used in art therapy, I decided on the painting course titled Painting: Theory and Process. This course will help me gain experience working with a wide variety of paints while using light and color in new ways. I can then translate these techniques to my patients later in life. I feel that printmaking is a wonderful way to create permanent art. Creating something that will last forever might help a client gain a sense of purpose. After looking at both courses, Printmaking Foundations: Cut, Carve, Etch seemed to be the right fit. This course is about the process of printmaking, teaching us how use different materials to create prints. Finally, Foundations of Sculpture: Representing the Body was the sculpture course I decided on taking. After reading the course description I knew I had to include it into my contract. Not only do we work with many unique materials, but the skills I will learn, such as welding will set me apart to future employers. Also, learning to relate art to the human body will aid in working with clients who have negative self-image, showing them how beautiful and unique each individual is through sculpture. An art history course I decided to take was 20/21: Art Since 1900. I felt as though having a basic understanding of several artists is something that will really help when working with different individuals. If creating art is not the right method for a client, showing them different artwork or possibly relating an artist’s struggles to their own will.

The psychology courses I have chosen to take will put me on the track to later attend graduate school to become a therapist. Introduction to General Psychology is a class I have already taken. I decided to include it in my contract because I learned about many different theories of psychology as well as about individual’s emotions, behaviors, and personalities. This course provided me with foundational knowledge on basic psychological theory. Life-Span Developmental Psychology is a course that teaches about the different stages of cognitive and emotional development. It is something I believe is essential to include in my contract due to the fact that I will learn how to relate to individuals of different ages, as well as learn how they take in diverse stimuli.

Abnormal Psychology will provide me with an in depth understanding of the major types of psychological disorders as well as a brief overview of various treatment methods. After taking that course I plan to take Treatment of Psychological Disorders. This is a course designed to teach students about the different types of psychotherapy, which is something that will be very beneficial for me later on. Art is not always going work for each individual, and when that is the case I must be able to offer additional treatment options. Psychology of Women is the course that I decided was crucial to include in my contract. Adult women are the demographic I am most interested in working with, and this course will provide me with the knowledge I need. We will be discussing and learning about how society influences women’s psychological well-being and how the social-construct of gender influences affect the lives of women. Social constructs and oppression are also topics that will be covered. I feel as though I will be able to utilize this information to better understand my clients and the difficulties the modern woman are going though.

This program is entirely interdisciplinary due to the fact that it is taking two disciplines, art and psychology, that seemingly have nothing in common and bringing them together in a cohesive way. I want to be able to help people by analyzing the way they think and feel through the things that they create. Art is an amazing tool in building self-confidence as well. It breaks down barriers and challenges your mind to think in ways you never though you could. This program is filled with all of the perquisites I need to attend a graduate school and become a certified art therapist. It covers all the requirements for graduation as well as provides me with the knowledge I will need to succeed in the future.


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Creating a Program in Expressive Arts Copyright © 2016 by Ariana Salvanelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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