Clinic Kaleidoscope

 

Sometimes patients must come to get treatment every day, often for hours, for weeks on end. When that is the case it can tax the creativity of both the patient and the art therapist. I try to keep acquiring new ideas and new skills through various blogs, classes, and books. However, sometimes the old ideas, ones long forgotten, can spur on a new creative endeavor.

About 20 years ago I worked in my Aunt’s stained glass studio where we had two kaleidoscope kits. They were tedious to assemble and difficult to sell. The other day the idea of a kaleidoscope came back when a teenage patient, who had been at the clinic for weeks, was looking for something new to do.

 We managed to make this one using a paper towel roll, small mosaic mirror tiles taped together, medical tape, and parts of a few urine specimen containers. As my memories of how the kaleidoscope was assembled came flooding back, our design gradually took form.

 When we completed one and displayed it in the art room, many other kids wanted to make one too! As we began to run out of the supplies we originally used, the children found ways to alter the first design and create other masterpieces with the materials on hand.

 

 

I Can’t Tell You But I’ll Show You….

Some children in treatment for cancer really struggle with the all the demands of  treatment, which include weekly finger pokes or a port access, shots and examinations by the doctor, and much more. Many of them cry and scream and let the treatment team know they are mad and don’t like what is happening.

Then there are kids who are incredibly compliant, say little about the treatment process and seem to make the best of a very difficult situation. These kids intrigue me. I always wonder about their experience and what they are not saying out loud. And then they begin to create and many of these quieter children and teens say a great deal about what they’re feeling through the imagery.

These two pictures are by a 9 year old boy who has said very little about his experience with cancer and the intensive treatment. His art work however, is very expressive and has become the vehicle through which he expresses many of the things that he doesn’t say out loud. It seems to be easier for him to express himself through the art; a seemingly natural way for him to convey his feelings about his experiences. When you look closely you begin to understand….

 

September 2012: National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

On August 31, 2012, President Obama proclaimed September 2012 to be National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“This month, we pay tribute to the families, friends, professionals, and communities who lend their strength to children fighting pediatric cancer.  May their courage and commitment continue to move us toward new cures, healthier outcomes, and a brighter future for America’s youth.”
 
Thank you, Mr. President.
 

Click here to view the official Press Release

National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

On August 31, 2012, President Obama proclaimed September 2012 National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

[Read more…]

“I Don’t Know What I am Making, But I Like It!”

As an art therapist, I often hear people say “I am not creative” or “I am not good at art”. These statements are not surprising as art is often judged by the final product and many of us feel like we fall short when it comes to creating something that can be called art.  While product- focused art making can be valuable, the desire to create a “good” work of art can also get in the way of experiencing the creative process. Creativity can be stifled by focusing on what the artwork looks like rather than what it feels like to create.

One way to focus directly on the process of creating art is through the intuitive painting process, which was originally developed by Michele Cassou.  We incorporated this process into our summer workshops by inviting the kids to “just paint” until they felt the picture was complete. We worked in an outdoor space at the hospital, turning a brick wall and a picnic bench into our own artist’s studio. Paper was taped to the wall and cups were filled with colorful paints. When one painting was finished a new paper was offered. The kids ran back and forth from the table of paints to the paper with dripping brushes in hand. Some kids splatter painted, some created meditative circular forms, while others painted people and animals. There were even a few participants that got so much paint on themselves that they became the artwork! As the kids painted they laughed and asked questions. Many commented on their own process saying, “I don’t know what I am making, but I like it!”

Stepping into a process in which the focus was on how something was created rather than what was created allowed the kids to let go. They enjoyed the messiness of the paint, explored how colors dripped down the canvas and pondered the wonderful and unexpected images that emerged onto the paper.

Meet the Puppets

Making Masks

Children, teens and young adults in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at CNMC have made hundreds of masks over the course of this summer. Creating masks is an incredibly popular project for everyone who comes to the art therapy room – parents and staff included! The initially blank masks serve as an amazingly poignant starting point for our patients and their families to express and examine emotions and experiences throughout the course of diagnosis and treatment for cancer and blood disorders.

Patients receiving treatment for Sickle Cell Disease made masks for a hospital wide exhibit in recognition of World Sickle Cell Day – a day dedicated to promoting a better understanding of Sickle Cell Disease and how it can impact children, adults and families around the world.  Some of the masks created by our patients now displayed prominently at Children’sNationalMedicalCenter. Hundreds of people pass by the bright and colorful exhibit every single day. The young artists’ masks are not only an attractive addition to the hospital but also a wonderful way to bring more attention to the challenges faced by children with this diagnosis.

Letting the Art Shine In

The Tracy’s Kids program at Inova Life with Cancer (LWC) is in Fairfax, VA and looks a little different than the other Tracy’s Kids programs. The outpatient clinic where patients come weekly for treatment is separate from Inova’s Hospital for Children at Fairfax Hospital, where children and teens are admitted when hospitalization is necessary. What is similar is that patients have access to art therapy in the outpatient clinic and in the hospital. However, there is another facet to this program that I also find very rewarding, which are the programs offered to families at the Life with Cancer Family Center where anyone impacted by cancer can access services. Through a grant from Tracy’s Kids, individual and group art therapy support is available to any child or teen impacted by cancer, whether they are in treatment or have a family member with cancer.

When patients and families create art at the clinic they often want to hang it on the walls of the art room. Everyone who comes there for the first time is impacted by the breadth and power of this work. It seemed important to share the art with many other people who are touched by cancer and would truly appreciate it. With the permission of the patients, siblings and parents this amazing art work was displayed in an art show at the LWC Family Center during July and August. This show was moving and powerful. The art contained so much color, energy and expression. It touched the hearts of all those who saw it, which I was told over and over again. Creating art is a healing process and it seems it also has a healing quality when it is viewed. Many thanks to all the kids, teens and parents that participated in this Tracy’s Kids program and Let Their Art Shine In at the LWC Family Center!

Labor Day

The post on Felted Scarves that appeared on Friday was supposed to be my Labor Day reflection (rookie blogger). It is an example of how the Tracy’s Kids art therapists support their colleagues at the hospitals. The health professionals we work with  have very specialized knowledge and skill, and they are incredibly focused and productive. Giving them the opportunity to exercise their creative muscles for a little while can be a great stress-buster. So, check out my post on Felted Scarves, and have a happy Labor Day!

The first step of the process–laying out the roving.