Monday Morning Art Circle

mandala

In March I'll begin a new job at Wellness Within, an amazing organization that provides support to cancer patients, survivors, their families and caregivers, all at no cost. They offer programs in expressive arts,  yoga, meditation and mindfulness. I feel very lucky to be a part of the program.

As I worked on designing a class, I came up with the idea of an art circle. I think of it like a living mandala; a gathering of people exploring the healing powers of art making. Creating art in a community setting is a gentle way of bringing all of us, facilitator (me) and group members alike, back to our essential, inner selves.

We'll be using a variety of media; collage, visual journaling, creation of personal mandalas and a wonderful directive that was created by art therapist, Gretchen Miller; Creative Covenants. Don't let this list scare you though.You do NOT need any prior art experience. The only requirement for our time together is the ability to wield a glue stick and use a pair of scissors.

If any of you reading this knows anyone with a cancer diagnosis, cancer survivors or their families and caregivers in the Sacramento area, who might benefit from this group, please have them contact Wellness Within. If you’d like to learn more about this workshop, you can email me at hkhunterarts@gmail.com. I’d love to have you join us!

The Monday Morning Art Circle

Date/Time Date(s) - 03/07/2016 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Generosity & Creative Deed 365

Attachment-1 (1)An online project, Creative Deed 365,  got me thinking about generosity. What makes someone want to give? The project's creator, Gretchen Miller, decided that she wanted offer a project/challenge that involves "...making small pieces of art (3 x 2.5) to randomly gift to others as acts of kindness and to spread creative goodness to others in the spirit of 6 Degrees of Creativity’s 2014 Creative Deed Project.  I want to dedicate 2015 to sharing this process with others and give all the art away with year long positive messages of hope, inspiration, and possibility."

As I read further, I discovered that Gretchen was leaving the cards in coffee shops, tucked in bookstore shelves, at bus stops, almost any public place you could imagine.  Each of them had the following message on the back:

Creative Deed 365 | Creativity in Motion

I was inspired by Gretchen's idea and wondered how I could adapt it for myself. I knew that I couldn't keep up with one card a day (although I tried). Instead, I began to make cards in odd moments in the hospital, using them to process an interaction, or in an art therapy session, and as a means of self-care.

Attachment-1I wondered what to do with them, how could I offer them to others as a means of inspiration? I wanted to provide a place where people could look through the cards, choosing one that felt right to them. But where would that place be?

The idea, when it finally arrived, was simple. As I prepared my studio for our town's open studio tour, I thought about how when I visit artists' studios, I want to to leave with something tangible, something that preserves the beauty I've seen. The problem is that most of the time, I can't afford the art work.

I decided that in my own studio, I would take that obstacle away. Although much of my work would be for sale, I would give away small "365" pieces of art.

And I did. I watched people looking over my work: the prints, the large wall pieces, the gift cards and I could see at certain points, a small moment of longing cross their face. At those moments, I offered them a card. They took the process to heart, leafing through them as if they were tarot cards, searching for just the right one.Attachment-1 (3)

After that, I couldn't stop making the miniature offerings--although I don't know where the next drop off will be, that's all part of the surprise element.

If you are interested in joining Gretchen's project: Make a request to join the Creative Deed 365 Group on Facebook and contribute your own art in the spirit of this effort.

Art Therapy Alliance's 30 Day Art Therapy Facebook Hop Starts June 1

Gretchen Miller of Art Therapy Alliance has come up with a creative way to promote connection between art therapists nationally and internationally. For the next 30 days, beginning June 1st, you can hop from one Art Therapist's Facebook page to another, crossing international borders and gathering inspirations, all without the aid of a passport! My own Facebook page, Hannah Klaus Hunter-Artist, will be featured on June 3rd. To find out more, Gretchen's description of the event below:

Art Therapy Alliance’s 30 Day Art Therapy Facebook Hop Starts June 1

Beginning June 1st, I will be hosting a 30 Day Art Therapy Facebook Hop through the Art Therapy Alliance’s community page. Each day of the month will feature a different art therapy Facebook Page I’ve selected from all over the world!

30 Day Art Therapy Facebook Hop | Art Therapy Alliance My hope is that this month long collaborative effort will increase the visibility of art therapy across Facebook. Not only is this a fun way to use social media to promote art therapy, but more importantly, an awesome opportunity to support & celebrate the work of art therapists and strengthen our Facebook community dedicated to this field!

Pages chosen for this Art Therapy Hop are all administered by art therapists or art therapy students with an interest in sharing their own work, program, art expression, or ideas and content they are passionate about and inspired by.

To join in on the hop, just head to Hop Headquarters on Facebook everyday in June to learn more about and get inspired by the page being featured. And don’t forget to “like” their page if you want to stay connected to future updates!

30 Day Art Therapy Facebook Hop | Art Therapy Alliance

 You can also follow this 30 Day Art Therapy Hop on Pinterest and Twitter!

Enjoy & Happy Hopping!

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Are you an art therapist or art therapy student with your own art therapy related Facebook Page?  I would love to learn more about it and share it with the Art Therapy Alliance community during this month!  E-mail me at info@arttherapyalliance.org with your link and a brief description before June 30 for consideration!

30 Day Art Therapy Facebook Hop | Art Therapy Alliance

My One Word

"Start," ©2014, 2.5" x 3.5", Collage and monoprint There's a New Year's practice that I've often read about on various blogs: choosing one word to guide one's actions for the coming year.

I'd forgotten about it though, until I read Alyson Stanfield's post this morning entitled "Clarity."

I skimmed the article and while walking down the halls of the hospital where I work, I began to internally audition my own lettered candidates.

I tried out various words; self confident, aware, determined, acceptance, safe, secure, peaceful.

I noticed different body sensations. Safe and secure felt contracting (although they are not necessarily so). Self confident felt a bit too other-oriented and acceptance--well, I spend a lot of time with that already!

I checked back with Alyson's post and came across this line: Your word of the year should inspire and motivate you. It provides focus without limiting you.

That provided the 'Goldilocks' moment and the 'just right' word popped into my mind: FAITH.

Faith covers it all. Faith in my self, faith in my art making, faith in my practice of art therapy. Also faith in my ability to be present as I encounter the uncharted territory of 2014.

How about you? Do you have a word or intention or new practice you're beginning? I'd love to hear about it.

Postscript: Many thank to Gretchen Miller. The word "START" in the collage comes from one of her revo'lution pieces, which she shared as a PDF for readers of her blog, Creativity in Motion.

Socks and STEPS

Oscar in the climbing hydrangea. We have a new program that we are rolling out at Children's Hospital.

STEPS, Supportive Therapies and Enhanced Palliative Care Services,  is a pediatric palliative care program which provides medical, mental health and spiritual services with a goal of helping a child to be as comfortable as possible throughout the full course of her treatment.

At present, we are introducing the program into the pediatric intensive care unit of our hospital.  I'm happy to say that art therapy is an integral part of the STEPS program.

I'm thrilled because I've long wanted to be able to participate in this continuum that begins with diagnosis and continues throughout the course of an illness.

Recently, I've had occasion to watch parents stand in front of their infant's cribs, hesitant to touch their babies, with all the tubes protruding from their tiny bodies. Helping parents to hold their child, no matter what the prognosis, is a challenge.

Art Therapy is about solving these kinds of challenges using creative activities which facilitate awareness and build confidence. What project might help parents to gather the self-assurance required to learn delicate skills, necessary to care for their babies?

In the right hands, the humble sock monkey* can become a powerful vehicle for boosting self confidence. I took up the challenge and created my own example, Oscar. As he emerged under my fingers, I was surprised by how his personality took shape and suddenly, there he was smiling back at me.

I found that cutting, stitching, stuffing and sewing require patience, coordination, imagination and a sense of humor. So I took Oscar and trialed my sock monkey experiment with some parents of young patients.

As I watched the parents sew, some of them stitching for the first time, it was a bit like watching a child take baby steps.  Knots didn't hold, thread slipped out of the needle (multiple times!), but the parents were able to pick up again, laugh at their mistakes and sew on.

Laughing at our mistakes and persisting are some of the skills we employ as parents (those of you who are parents know, there is no shortage of opportunities to make mistakes!) Sock monkeys help parents to experience new skills and their own creativity in a relaxed, yet authentic way.

One of the founders of STEPS, Dr. Theresa Murdock-Vlautin, said that the goal of STEPS is to "enhance care in body and spirit, coordinating resources to provide support, hope, healing and wellness." I look forward to watching the program unfold and the love and wisdom which will grow in the families and in our team as a result.

*For more information about sock monkeys, check out Art Therapist, Gretchen Miller's informative posts on sock monkeys here. For an excellent how-to video, you can look at Art Therapist Kat Thorsen's video here. Many thanks to both Gretchen and Kat for their inspiration and  incredible service projects with sock monkeys.

Pocket Change Unfolds

Several days ago, I found a rather large white box in the mail. It was bulging at the seams and when I opened it, out poured a tantalizing array of envelopes covered with stamps from far away lands. Artist Trading Cards for the 6 Degrees of Creativity Pocket Change swap! Cards from Australia by Jade Herriman

I invited my sister Amelia over to help with the swap; why not spread the fun? An amazing afternoon unfolded as we carefully unpacked the cards and laid them out on the tables, marveling as each envelope revealed new treasure.

ATx.PC3

Oh my gosh, how we were going to choose which cards went where? Amelia took on wrapping the cards; that meant I was going to do the selection. I decided "intuitive" was the way to go. Once I stopped worrying (and honestly there wasn't much of that), the cards seemed to sort themselves.

Cards on envelopes, ready to wrap up and send...

During the time that the cards were laid out, there was an air of expectation and exuberance in the studio, but most of all,  all of the love and caring that had gone into this awesome effort.

A selection of cards headed to Canada

There was no way I could have anticipated the sheer creative goodness shining forth. Thank you so much to Beth Rommel for gathering  envelopes from every corner of the world and creating parcels for Gretchen and I to sort and swap. (The three of us each sorted about 50 packages!) Thank you also to Gretchen Miller without whom, 6 Degrees of Creativity  and Pocket Change would not exist. And thank you especially to every artist and agent of change who participated--I look forward to hearing your stories.

ATx.PC9

Mending Walls and Making Change

ATCs on parade At some point in their studies, art therapy students discover the "media continuum." On this continuum, media are placed along along an invisible line moving from point A to point B line according their degree of safety and control.

A lead pencil at one end of the continuum offers a feeling of familiarity and control--and on the the opposite end spectrum, oil paint offers an unwieldy challenge. If you don't watch out, you might find your client who has difficulty with impulse control spraying the paint all over your office walls.

The key is to match the both the media and the intervention to the needs of the client. To non-art therapists, this might sound theoretical and over cautious.

It's not. In my very first art therapy bereavement group many years ago,  an angry adolescent punched a hole in the wall of the hospital in which I was working; his reaction to my misdiagnosis of media and intervention. I hadn't read the signals and had asked the group to attempt something that put this young man face to face with his grief far too early in his grieving process.

If I hadn't been convinced about the medium continuum before, if my teachers' stories seemed only to be tall tales, I became  a convert and I've employed it ever since.

I use the same principle in my own art. When I'm feeling stretched thin, I stick with materials over which I have more control. When I'm feeling expansive, my work and my materials grow too.

Right now, I'm in the process of sanding the panel edges of my "Mending Wall" series. I love this series, but I don't like finish work. It feels like all the fun and discovery is over and I'm doing the visual equivalent of balancing a checkbook.

Mending Wall 1,© 2012, H. Hunter, 12" x 12," paper, watercolor on panel

Recently, I decided to intersperse the task of sanding with our 6 Degrees of Creativity "Pocket Change" project. My deal for myself is: finish one sanded panel--make one artist trading card.

I've arranged the artist trading cards, in various stages of completion, at a discreet distance from where I sand. I can see them while I work, their bright colors shining, offering the possibility of almost instant gratification.

Mending Wall 1, edges sanded and stained

I'm beginning to love sanding. By creating a new rhythm: hard medium/easy medium/hard medium, I'm finding patience and sanding is leading to new ideas for my next series. I love the smooth, variegated surface of the wood.

Meanwhile, artist trading cards gather at the end of the table, ready to be mailed off for Beth Rommel, collector and distributor for our Pocket Change project.  Gretchen Miller, Beth and I have concocted this project to focus on the power of creating change through making something small (in the form of artist trading cards) and through engaging in simple acts of creative kindness.

You get the picture--help yourself, help others--it's not too late to join us! The deadline is tomorrow,  Tuesday, January 15. For more information on the exchange, click here.

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I also invite to share stories about your own media continuum experiences--whether you called it that--or maybe just "those darn pastels!"

Pocket Change: Or, Small (Creative) Acts Create Meaningful Change

"Even after they are cut down, a sprout may be taken from them and planted in another place, and they begin to grow again." —Mishna

Pocket Change, Badge created by Gretchen Miller

Like a lot of people I know, I've been searching for meaning among the rubble of recent events; both inside our country and out of it.

Though it is easier but necessary, to critique what is going wrong in our schools, our homes, and our countries, I wanted to stretch a little and find a project which contributes to the good in a small but meaningful way.

It began with an idea from my friend, Beth Rommel, who wanted  begin the new year with something positive, something with art, something with others.

In collaboration with Gretchen Miller and myself, we concocted Pocket Change, hosted by 6 Degrees of Creativity.

Pocket Change’s intention is to focus on the concept of creating change through making something small (in the form of artist trading cards) to exchange with one another, as well as to encourage simple acts of creative kindness with others.

I decided to try out making a few of the cards. They were fun to create--simple, without encumbrance. They remind me of mandarin oranges. You pick one up, peel it and pop it whole, or in a few sections, into your mouth and suck out the sweetness.

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photoPocket Change is all about how simple and small acts can create and instill kindness, gratitude, and change.  Think about the power of your mini artworks as a means to express and share a positive image, message, or intention with others (and the world!) that can make a difference, bring hope, or inspiration.

-Gretchen Miller

It reminds me of the Mindful Studio Practice that I offered as part of 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. The beauty of making artist trading cards is the opportunity for quiet moments in which your imagination can stretch.

But wait, there's more: the added bonus of sending these miniatures off so that someone else will benefit from your practice.

Please join us for some pocket size creative goodness and kindness to share with one another and others!  The deadline to sign up for the ATC exchange is January 15.  Learn more about the exchange details and how to get involved on the 6 Degrees of Creativity blog.

Gluebooks On The Move

Normally when we get to this time of the year, I'm thrilled. September is the month of my birth, a time when I feel most comfortable in my skin. The leaves are beginning to yellow and the brilliant light of the Central Valley is edged with a hint of shadows to come. While the weather lived up to it's reputation, September brought a greater than normal share of challenges. I'm pleased to say that while I did my share of "pre-whining,"  (a phrase my sister coined for crossing "troubled waters" before you reach them) I met each one fairly and squarely, but with little time for the studio.

Little time, that is, until a barking good case of bronchitis laid me up for a week. While I was there, I decided to explore Gretchen Miller's workshop, Gluebook Goodness, a part of 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. (I figured I could work on it in bed!)

I loved watching Gretchen's hands at work in her video, adding images, words and smudged ink around the edges. I was particularly touched by her encouragement to "dedicate" our gluebooks to particular topics. In her hands, I watched ordinary effluvia such as receipts, tickets and tokens become the diaries of days filled with meaning.

But to what would I dedicate myself and my book? I hunted out receipts and notes around the house, but aside from one that my husband left saying: "Hallie's had hers / Dishwasher mostly emptied" I didn't find any special meanings.

My answer arrived in the form of a Sunday New York Times that my mom dropped off at my house.  It just so happened that this was the issue in which the NY Times Arts section listed all the upcoming exhibits for 2013. I turned to a page filled with Arabic script and saw the words "Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries."

Eureka! My book would be a tour of all of the exhibits around the country that I want to visit next year. I don't know if I'll get to all of them, but here's a partial list with bonus images:

Crossing Borders: Manuscripts From the Bodleian Libraries at the Jewish Museum, NY, NY (Check out the link above for some fabulous photographs.)

Jasper Johns: Seeing With the Mind's Eye: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Girl With A Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from Mauritshuis: DeYoung Museum, San Francisco

Gravity and Grace: Monumental works by El Anatsui, Brooklyn Museum, NY

I'm curious--what exhibits are on your "must see" list this art season?

Take 2: Palliative Care and Paper Swaps (The Whole Story)

Our pediatric department is beginning a pediatric palliative care team and as we lay the groundwork, we're introducing the idea of integrative therapies to our pediatricians.

It's not a new idea. My colleague Kathy Lorenzato, a music therapist, has been teaching and practicing Reiki, a hands-on healing technique, for over 10 years, and I have joined her for the last 4 years. As far as integrative therapies go inside the hospital, at the moment, we're it.

With this in mind, the two of us were invited to speak to our pediatric physicians on staff about art therapy, music therapy and Reiki. I made a PowerPoint to explain the use of art in palliative care and put together a resource list on other integrative therapies.

It sounds simple on the surface, but as my husband noted, trying to explain the value of therapies whose effects cannot be quantified, to a group of science oriented folks, made me more than a bit nervous.

That's where my own art therapy came into play. Over the last couple of weeks, I participated in a Paper Swap organized by Gretchen Miller of 6 Degrees 2. I mailed my offering to an artist living in Missouri and looked forward to receiving an envelope of my own in return.

Days passed while I worked on the PowerPoint and my anxiety rose accordingly. Raised in a family with a healthy number of doctors, I've had some run ins with scientific minds and I've always felt myself lacking. Although art therapy requires a certain amount of intellectual engagement, I depend more heavily on my intuition, letting passion do the heavy lifting.

One day last week at the peak of my fear, a large padded envelope arrived, postmarked Australia. I opened it carefully and sifted through the contents; feathery tissue, textured rice papers, leaves of patterned scrapbooking pages and a packet of gaily colored buttons.

I considered the colors and shapes sitting on my lap and something shifted internally. As I touched the papers, taking in the colors, patterns and textures,  my fear eased. I realized that "right here, right now" on my couch I was experiencing the tangible results of art therapy.

I went into the presentation 2 days later with an insight. Rather than seeing the doctors as a group of individuals whose opinions I wanted to change, I saw an opportunity to heal the split between my own thinking and feeling, between the intellectual and the artistic.

I stood on the podium, praying the memory stick and my own memory would work. As I looked at the slide of a patient's artwork projected behind me, I remembered the joy I felt working with him--but I also remembered the research, the effort that others had gone to, in order to document the effectiveness of art therapy. Research that is necessary for art therapy to be accepted into the treatment team's fold.

The presentation went well. The physicians were attentive, and even better, I felt the old split inside me being carefully drawn back together. When our talk ended, we gave a Reiki demonstration. Up there on the dais, Kathy, one of the pediatric residents, our Child Psychiatrist and I offered Reiki treatments to four doctors who came forward. I felt the tide beginning to turn.

A Case for Community

I'm fast approaching the end of  Creating a Mindful Studio Practice Workshop in 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. Regretfully. As I mentioned in my last post, I felt that I'd written the workshop as much for myself as for the workshop students.

But that would be a short sighted view. As Gretchen Miller said in her promotional materials for 6 degrees 2, the workshops are a way to develop community.

And community bears fruit beyond what anyone can imagine. Case in point, I became friends with Beth Rommel, of niftyartgirl.com in another online art workshop series. We began talking to each other 2 years ago, helping each other to solve art problems (and as time passed others as well.) Recently, I'd been talking to Beth about how to supervise student volunteers in the hospital setting.

I was frustrated. Often, it seemed that these bright premed students saw their time in the hospital playroom as a chance to return to childhood themselves. I wanted to find a way (without reverting to my own past days of mothering) to convey to them the gravity of these children's situations and how important it is to give each of them pure, undivided attention.

There is a lot going on with kids in a hospital playroom, some it obvious, some of it not. An iv pole or long scar on the head are hard to miss. Emotional distress is often invisible at first glance.

Beth had an unusual suggestion. She told me that she was listening to "The Martha Rules," an audio CD of Martha Stewart's. In it, Martha lays out a framework for success in starting, building or managing a business.

Despite my misgivings about Martha because of her conviction for insider trading, I purchased a copy and began to listen. Martha presented a succinct and understandable paradigm that I could easily adjust for my students.

But that wasn't all. Yesterday, the book literally saved my life. I was on my way to visit my artist friend, Linda Johnson, who lives a couple of blocks from the hospital. As I drove, I listened to the CD, paying close attention.

Martha stated firmly that sometimes bad things are going to happen and that while you can have strong feelings, even overreact, you cannot panic. She firmly reiterated that whatever happened, not to panic.

Suddenly, smoke started to creep out of my hood. 2 seconds later it was billowing and the car crawled to a halt on the exit ramp to the hospital, located in a rough part of town. Cars started to swerve around me.

"O.k., Martha says not to panic," I told myself and took a deep breath, thanking God for cell phones and AAA.  Long story short, a kind gentleman helped to push me down the ramp and around the corner to relative safety. I was scared, but hearing Martha's words moments before gave me an inner certainty that everything would work out.

And it did. The tow truck came, Linda arrived and we ended up having time to paint together before work. I am extremely grateful to both of these friends, who are part of my artist's community. Beth lives in Georgia. I live in Davis, CA and Linda is in Sacramento.

These days, people talk a lot about whether connections we make through the internet can truly help to create bonds of friendship. Although we are separated by distance, the connections that I've made with these two friends through my artwork has created more than good artwork. It has created a network of community that I can count on in good times and in bad.

I'd love to hear your stories about serendipity in your art community.

21 Days

I've been having a lot of fun lately with 6 Degrees 2, an on-line workshop. I'm one of the instructors for this nourishing soup of activities and I'm also a student. As soon as the class descriptions were posted, I promptly signed up for the other 5 workshops.

But I decided to begin with my own: Still Point in a Changing World: Creating a Mindful Studio Practice. (Or, 21 Days, 21 Lesssons.)

When I initially conceived of the course, I thought about the many times I've heard an artist sigh and wish that s)he spent more time in the studio. From my own struggles with this predicament, I knew there must be a way and I pondered how to come up with internal bearings, a means to orient participants, over and over toward their work space. Perhaps even to a place of stillness where they might find their heart's desire.

Little did I know that I was drawing my own map. When I wrote out the course, I was feeling lost and stuck in a barren landscape. Try as I might, I could not get a new series going. Small starts led nowhere or into cul-de-sacs.

In order to build a structure for the class,  I paired a poem or quote for each day with a corresponding directive for artwork. Each person can choose whatever they want from that combination and take off from there.

As I make my way through "21 Days," my 21 have expanded into many more. I begin with one simple watercolor and then let the guidelines for that day govern the fate of the rest. I've been hovering between Days 9 and 13 for sometime and the collages I'm tackling are captivating me.

Constant slow movement teaches us to keep working

Like a small creek that stays clear,

That doesn't stagnate, but finds a way

Through numerous details, deliberately.

--Rumi

I began the course myself to test the prompts I'd written. I didn't assume that following them would lead me in my own new direction. I'm profoundly grateful to Gretchen Miller for inviting me to take part in this workshop and I'm moved by the power that connecting with like-minded individuals has to provoke change.

So, I'm curious. Have you taken up a new direction this summer? I'd love to hear about it.