Expressive Arts in the World is a blog series designed to inform and inspire. We bring you news of projects, programs and practitioners, both locally and globally, to help you see how this work is practiced and what it’s benefits are.
Today we feature Positively Postcards, a beautiful little project that emerged organically and touched lives in a positive, meaningful, and unexpected ways.
When we follow our hearts, and get creative, wonderful things can happen!
Once a month, at Expressive Arts Florida Institute, we host a community networking event, with a guest presenter. In April, we invited Louise Bruderle, editor and publisher of West Coast Woman in Sarasota, to teach our group about her expressive writing project with female inmates at the Sarasota County jail. Louise designed and created this project, and it is offered, at the jail, through SPARCC.
It was an inspiring evening, with much heartfelt sharing, as Louise demonstrated some of the ways in which she engages these women, and how this experience affects them.
Patrice Kennedy, of Women in Search, and a Sarasota County Art teacher, came to networking that evening, and was inspired enough to add another element to Louise’s work. She asked if she could be the facilitator at the next networking event, as she wanted to make postcards for the women in the jail.
So, in May, a group gathered for networking, and, under Patrice’s direction, made postcards with positive messages. These postcards were given to Louise, who delivered them to the women in jail.
Here is what Patrice has to say:
My Positively Postcards networking process was inspired by Louise Bruderle, editor & publisher of West Coast Women during her EAF networking event in April 2016.
Louise shared her experience teaching expressive writing to women at the Sarasota County Jail and then lead us in a writing process. This was an extension of her experience with a “Writing to Heal” workshop at Duke University.
Afterwards we asked Louise if there was anything we could do for the women. She said maybe something to remind them that they are good.
I asked if I could facilitate a networking process to make some art postcards to send to them and it was agreed by all that this would be worthwhile towards lifting their spirits and morale. In May we offered the EAFI networking for my Positively Postcards process where we made about 40 water colored heartfelt expressions of hope, love and kindness on handmade paper postcards. Some of the paraprofessional staff members who work in my ART classroom at school also contributed their lovely postcards. I delivered the box of cards to Louise to share with the women residents at the jail. Louise delivered all to the women where they chose their favorite brightly colored card with an affirmative message that they were able to keep. These were a gift from our hearts to theirs reminding every woman of her innate goodness and worth.
Here is what Louise has to say:
The cards were greatly appreciated by the women! They picked them all up, one by one and read them carefully. I asked them to choose one they liked and to write down why they liked it and how it related to to their lives. The cards that Patrice and the others made were so colorful! The jail is harsh but also also entirely colorless. These cards made them think, made them feel better, and added a bright moment in their day.
We love this project, and thought you might like to hear about it too.
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It is such a privilege and a joy to be a part of this international community of expressive arts practitioners who are effecting change in the world in so many ways. Expressive Arts embraces the power of the imagination, and asks that we bring our whole selves, our best selves, to our lives, to those we serve, and to the Earth. It is all about engaging and following the threads of creativity, in service of wellness, healing, wholeness, connection, community, and social change.
With immense gratitude,
Kathleen, Victoria, Tamara
Today, I would like to share my discovery of Expressive Arts, and, my discovery of myself.
It is, of course, a long and multi-layered story, so today I am giving you a very short version.
In my early 40’s my life looked like this:
*I was working as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, in Florida, combining a private practice with some agency work. I enjoyed my work, was good at it, and I also felt like something was missing.
*I was a shut-down artist. I embraced a story of being “not artistic”. (There are many reasons for this, but that is a story to be told another time – a universal story that many of us share). I made some tentative explorations into the arts, but visual art was something that I simultaneously greatly feared and deeply longed for.
What happened next:
*I was hired as a part time counselor in an art college. Surrounded by creative visual expression, my longing deepened and I began to cautiously acknowledge it. I had the opportunity to take art classes at a deep discount, and I enrolled in a print-making class. When my first image came through the press, I literally jumped for joy!
*I was going through my own challenging time of transition, and I began spontaneously making art, as a way to cope and make sense of my journey. I didn’t “choose” to do this consciously; it was more like an inner imperative.
*I was coordinating a treatment program for children who had been abused. We got a grant to bring art students into the therapy groups to work alongside the therapists. Amazing things happened and I knew I needed and wanted more – more training, more experience, more art.
*As part of those grant requirements, I found myself facilitating a guided meditation in a workshop, connecting people with their internal imagery and facilitating an art process. Suddenly, I had such a profound sense of deep inner knowing – THIS is what I am meant to be doing!
*I took a mandala workshop, and re-connected with this ancient form that my grandfather taught mewhen I was a child. I framed my first piece – a big milestone in accepting my artist -self.
*One day, by spontaneously taking a different route to my office, I discovered the newly developing Towles Court Art Colony. Without much thought, I signed a lease in advance for a little studio there, wondering why (but knowing, deeply) I was moving my psychotherapy office to an art colony.
And then….. I serendipitously learned about a program at California Institute for Integral Studies – an Expressive Arts certificate for practicing psychotherapists – “what the heck is Expressive Arts?” asked my mind, but my heart was already there, not knowing what I might be getting into, but knowing that I needed to go.
And I did. The obstacles, vanished, the path cleared, and 3 weeks later I was in San Francisco, embarking on a new chapter.
Four weeks later, having completed my first summer intensive in expressive arts, I arrived back in Sarasota, looking and feeling different. Friends asked (as they do) “How was your training?” Big question! The answer I gave is the same answer I give you now – it is simple and it is true – “it was a like a year of graduate school, a year of personal therapy, and a vacation!” And now, in hindsight, I would add: I discovered Expressive Arts, and, in the process, I discovered myself.
In my initial training, I learned something simple yet amazing: “the arts, at their essence, are all connected, and they are essentially healing. Our creativity is like a powerful healing thread that runs through our experience. When we follow that thread, we might paint, sing, move, enact, drum, use our voice, meditate, and more. Each art form builds on and deepens the next, and we are changed. Our creativity and imagination hold answers that our head may not. By opening to our channels of creativity, we open to another way. Another way to solve our problems, to move through days, to live our lives. The change is so much deeper than insight or awareness. It is change in our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our spirit. It is a remembering of who we are, at our essence.
My new studio was ready for occupancy when I got back from California. I set it up, and I moved in!
This was 1996. If I told you all of the steps on the journey between now and then, this would be a book, not a post. Sometime it may be! For now: Here are some steppingstones:
*infusing my therapy practice with expressive arts, both individually and in groups *offering “creative encounter” workshops to to the general public *opening my studio for art walks and learning to facilitate community art projects *joining IEATA (International Expressive Arts Therapy Association), attending and presenting at conferences, and eventually serving on the Board for 8 years *making art as an integral part of my life – the images simply poured out, and I wondered: how much energy has it been taking to keep them inside all these years? *I took more art classes and my skills improved as my personal style emerged *I completed my Expressive Arts training and sought out as many opportunities to learn as I could *I discovered there were others who were searching for this, as well, and collaborations and partnerships began *Over several years, my partners and I co-founded “Sacred Studio”, “Inner Visions Gallery”, “Art and Healing Certificate program”, and finally “Expressive Arts Florida Institute“.
Today, I am blessed to have a life I love. I teach and facilitate Expressive Arts with my amazing colleague/partners – Victoria and Tamara. I have discovered myself. My work is an outer manifestation of what I am deeply committed to, in myself. My own practice is the same thing that I teach others. It’s not a perfect life, for sure, and sometimes it is not easy. It is, though, absolutely true and absolutely without doubt. This path was in me all along, but my life journey had disconnected me from my truth. When I entered back into the place of fear (visual art) I found the gold. I found my own creative wisdom.
And, I found my artist-self. My artwork is, for me, primarily my own sanctuary. Sometimes, though, I exhibit it, and sometimes I sell it. I love it when something I have created awakens a spark in someone else.
What about your journey? Your version of the story? Your truth? Are you ready to invite your own unfolding creative wisdom? I know the power of this work, from the inside out, and I want to encourage you to step onto your own creative path. My partners and I are here to guide you.
If you are ready to take the perfect first step, I invite you to join Tamara, Victoria and I for our next
If you are ready for a little more, the next session of Expressive Arts Discovery – a 90 minute virtual workshop!
I would love to see you there.
P.S. You might enjoy reading this description of how my partners and I use expressive arts in our business practice!
How can you use Expressive Arts in your daily life?
This is what happened yesterday.
The 3 of us were in our weekly Partner/Faculty meeting.
Tamara and Victoria were both in our Sarasota studio, and Kathleen was in British Columbia, so we were meeting virtually. We were addressing a question, and seeking answers. After talking/brainstorming for over an hour, we had reached a place in our discussion where we needed a different perspective, more information, a dose of “creative wisdom”.
So we turned to the arts.
We took 10 minutes of quiet time and each worked spontaneously in our journals – spontaneous visual art, followed by writing.
Then we witnessed one another and shared.
Here are the results.
I watch myself take off upstream, in an unknown form, curious about what is ahead
The waters are vast with nothing in sight
I know I will meet my match
Yet I wonder……………..
I see three paths leading to one place. I see steps to follow. All are leading to the edge of the page.
I feel drawn by the Earthy stairway but it is not complete – showing only part of itself. I feel relief with its structural appearance. I wonder what is on the next page – where do these paths lead? Where do these stairs take me? Toward the light and warmth – in the same direction.
I need new coordinates to focus my compass.
I am circling around deep knowing.
I am circling around deep seeking.
I am circling around connection.
I am circling around a pathway.
Yellow part: Your answer is in shining more brightly, being yourselves more fully, speaking your truth, making your art. It is essential that you do this together, share what you are doing, honor its power. People are drawn to a shining light. Shine yours.
It’s a small, yet significant, example of how Expressive Arts works. 10 minutes out of our busy day, allowing access to our deeper creative wisdom. With a little more time, we might have moved our bodies in response to our art, embodying our questions more fully and allowing more wisdom to emerge. We may still do that. One art form leads to another, and the learning deepens.
We will take the messages of our art into our further discussion, as we harvest its meaning.
The process we did today is a variation of “in this moment’, from our complimentary e-book. Sign up on our website and receive your copy. It includes a guided meditation to get you started.
Are you ready for a little more?
Join us for our FREE WEBINAR! Next date: Wed. Aug. 31, 7-8 pm Eastern time!
Or, Expressive Arts Discovery, a 90-minute virtual workshop. Next date: Wed. Sept. 7, 7-8:30 pm Eastern time (just $47)
Here is a synthesis of the poetic message from our art today. Maybe it has relevance for you, as well!
I watch myself take off upstream, in an unknown form, curious about what is ahead.
I see steps to follow. All are leading to the edge of the page.
Where do these steps take me?
Toward the light and warmth.
People are drawn to a shining light. Shine yours more brightly.
Kathleen, Victoria, Tamara