Monthly Archives: December 2003

Taking an art break

Taking an art break

By Sally Cole, The Guardian

Millie King draws time out of her schedule to take part in lunchtime art classes given by Mary Curtis in Charlottetown. It’s a stress-buster for King who works as an internal resource person for Workers Compensation Board. Millie King works at a hectic Charlottetown office.
But once a week, she disappears at lunchtime.

During an hour-long reprieve, she picks up a pencil and a sketch pad or a brush and some watercolours and immerses herself in a project during a unique art class. “At first when I arrive, I feel that I can’t put my mind to it at all. But once I get drawing, immediately the worries of home and work lift. I lose my sense of time and I just relax,” says the internal resource person at the Workers Compensation Board.

King is one of the students enrolled in the Art at Lunch program. The six-week course is being offered at 114 Victoria Row (Kudos) in Charlottetown on Tuesdays or Thursdays this winter. It’s being run by Mary Curtis of Curtland Studios.

Like a good fitness coach, Curtis starts her class with basic stretching exercises. “Before you begin, I want you to warm up with parallel lines and parallel curves. “By holding your wrist really stiff — like it’s broken and in a cast and moving it — you can get straight lines. Anyone can,” says Curtis, boosting her students’ confidence. Then it’s time to get down to business.

During the art class, Curtis goes over the rudiments of drawing and encourages students to choose their own projects. “We individualize the classes. We take students where they’re at in realism, drawing, perspective and watercolour painting.

“They’re being challenged — both in their technical ability and their ability to see,” she says. That’s when the art therapy element starts to kick in. (see note below)

“When you begin to see where the shadows are or you’re focusing on getting the balance of light and shadow right in your own work, in the process you stop worrying and thinking about all the things on your mind,” says Curtis, who has taught art for over 16 years.

In art therapy images often begin with feelings, dreams, memories, ideas or simply an urge to doodle, says Marty Levenson, a Vancouver registered art therapist. “Clients may then use clay and paint to explore these beginnings by giving them a physical form. This creative play can provide a means of expression for that which has no words or is not yet understood,” says Levenson, a member of the Canadian Art Therapy Association.

Back at her desk, King is deep in thought as she recreates still life. “Once I get into the actual drawing, that’s when you start to relax. It just kind of comes over you. “And when it’s over, I go back to work feeling refreshed,” she says. Besides being restful, there’s a deep sense of accomplishment in art. “I’m not very good at taking time for myself. Evening is the worst time for me because I’m called on for homework, meals and to run here and there,” says the busy mother of two.

So attending art classes is helping her keep things in perspective. “This lunch hour is for me, and if I can keep committed to this, I can keep it going. “It’s an escape from everything . . . “It makes the afternoons shorter and it’s reduced the stress in my life,” says King, who is hoping to get her family involved as well.

Anyone who would like more information about art at lunch classes, art parties and other events is encouraged to call 566-2787.

Editorial note:
the article mentions art therapy but is not art therapy. Instead you have the therapeutic effect inherent in art making. Art making is therapeutic but is not art therapy. The difference is important. There are two major schools of thought in art therapy: therapeutic art (akin to this example) and art therapy.

Art therapy emphasizes the processes during art making that embody the life of the patient in marks, signs and symbols and reflect the context in which the patient/artist is evolving. The processes comprise an expressive language and a wider view of what a patient is going through. Coupled with what is evoked through story telling (telling the story of the process, the picture or the art piece) therapist and artist piece the life picture together into meaning that is helpful and healing. The art is a therapeutic enabler produced by the artist/patient and used by the therapist in the meaning making process. Francine Levesque MA, art therapist

Painting through the pain

Painting Through the Pain

by Leora Alhadeff

When the Nazis forced artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis into Terezin, she smuggled in art supplies and taught the concentration camp’s children to express themselves through art.

“Everyone put us in boxes — the Nazis — and she took us out of them,” her student, Edna Amit, later said of Dicker-Brandeis, who died in Auschwitz at age 47.

The Museum of Tolerance is remembering Dicker-Brandies, one of the founders of art therapy, with a display of her art and that of her students, as well as a modern-day art therapy project inspired by her techniques.

A downstairs gallery displays art by children of Terezin, which depict harsh camp conditions and life before the war.

Upstairs, 10 life-size puppets — each created by one of 10 students from inner-city Orville Wright Middle School — sit at a mosaiced table, with decorated cigar boxes archiving the lives of each child. The school’s 13- to 15-year-olds face modern-day challenges such as pressure to use drugs and join gangs.

This is the first time that Virginia Marroquin, a 13-year-old Latina, learned about the Holocaust, and it made her see her own challenging life in a different way: “[The Holocaust] opened my eyes a lot … it helped me look at life in a better way. It made me realize how much I have,” she told The Journal.

Art therapist Dr. Debra Linesch created the project with Regina Miller, the museum’s project director. This past summer they led a five-day workshop, using Dicker-Brandeis to inspire the inner-city children.

“No matter how bad things are, give voice to it and you are re-humanizing a dehumanizing experience,” said Linesch, director of the graduate department of marital and family therapy at Loyola Marymount University. “That’s what I learned from Friedl.”

The dual exhibit runs through Jan. 15, at the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For information, call (310) 553-8403 or visit