Art Therapy assists troubled youth

Monday, November 28, 2005

Art therapy assists troubled youth
By Bob Holliday

NORMAL — The gangly blond boy dipped the handle of his brush into white paint and made stars on the dark background he’d painted just moments earlier. Art therapy teacher Tony

Morstatter was impressed. “I didn’t show him that. He did it on his own. He must have picked it up at an art class somewhere else,” said Morstatter, who uses art as therapy at the McLean County Juvenile Detention Center. The purpose is to keep youngsters busy in a constructive way and to build self-esteem. “It’s unusual. There are some others (similar programs) out there, but they’re not commonplace,” Morstatter said. “We offer it because we feel it’s a benefit. It helps build self-esteem and self-expression,” said Cathy Jo Waltz, assistant superintendent of the Normal facility.

The program, which the state doesn’t require, is offered at least once a week, often on Fridays, when regular school isn’t taught.

Some of the art ends up hanging on the center’s walls. “It makes the place warmer,” Waltz said. That’s the case with the green, yellow and black sponge art hanging in a hallway.
“This kid didn’t like art group, but it turned out to be a nice work. I think it reflects his personality, which was kind of defiant,” Morstatter said, adding the boy was proud of his work once it was hung.

Morstatter, 28, grew up in Decatur. He knew by high school that he wanted to be involved with art and to work with children.

That led him to Eureka College, where he majored in art and psychology and then to Illinois State University, where he got a master’s in art education with an emphasis in art therapy.
Continued …

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