Creative Destruction

Creation and destruction are two sides of the same creative coin. Part of the empowerment of art therapy comes because the patient is in control of when to create and destroy. Kids with serious medical conditions deal with a lot of experiences that are painful and scary, and anger and the impulse to destroy can be an instinctive response to pain. The destructive side of creation can  be  therapeutic, with the right approach.

One really fun, slightly destructive, and very exciting art project is to create a “volcano” and explode it using the chemical reaction of vinegar and baking soda. Here are some pictures of two of our guys erupting the volcano that one of them sculpted out of clay– turning a day of chemo into fun and exciting play.

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Tape-imals

The art room at the Methodist Children’s clinic is currently overrun with tape animals (and a few other interesting creatures), and they have created quite a buzz among everyone who sees them!

tape-imals

tape-imals4

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A young college student visited our clinic one day to learn more about art therapy and specifically how Tracy’s Kids operates.  While she sat in the art room, getting to know some of the kids, she showed us how to make sculptures out of paper and masking tape.  The kids and I were enthralled.  The construction is simple, but really require a lot of patience and problem-solving to get the desired effect.  It’s a great project for families to do together, because sometimes you need extra hands.

All you need is paper, masking tape, and paint.  Regular masking tape works the best.  We started with painter’s tape because I had it on hand, but it doesn’t stick very well (by design), even though it IS  a fun blue color.  The paper is easiest to sculpt if it’s on the thin side, like copy paper.  This could be a great use for extra sheets of paper that are often floating around hospital clinics.  Crumple the paper and work it with your hands until you get the desired shape, then wrap in several layers of tape.  If you do make an animal – or anything with limbs and parts that stick out – it works best to do it in pieces, and then join them together.  Most kids decide to paint the sculptures at the end, but it’s up to them!

I am a big fan of any art that is cheap to create.  As an added bonus, despite their use of simple materials, the end-result looks really special.  I love the attention they get from everyone in the clinic – doctors and nurses and everyone who happens by all “ooh” and”ahh” over them, to the kids’ delight.

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Yes, that is the Pillsbury Doughboy!

“Nistar” Comic Book Event

 

We hope many of our friends can join us for this very special event NEXT TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 at 2:00 p.m. at Lombardi. The Go 4 the Goal Foundation is hosting a book tour for Shira Frimer, author of a comic book about a superhero who works to find a cure for childhood cancer. Ms. Frimer is an Israeli author and art therapist, and the book is illustrated by a professional comic book artist who illustrates for Marvel and DC comics! Autographed books, refreshments and a fun art activity will make it a really interesting and enjoyable afternoon.  Patients, friends and families of Tracy’s Kids are welcome to come. Nistar Poster

Progam Evaluation Time!

The Tracy’s Kids programs are collecting feedback from kids and families who participate at all five locations.  We are confident that we do good work, but we always want to know how we can improve.

We are asking  specifically if we are meeting our key goals: helping  kids and families in the clinic or hospital relax and calm down, deal with scary or stressful situations, have fun, express feelings, and cooperate with treatment–and if we help in other ways too. We’d love for you to tell us about the things we are doing really right,  and also hear suggestions about opportunities we may be missing.

If you participate in one of our programs, please take a minute to fill out a questionnaire the next time you visit–and if you’re all done with treatment and you don’t have to go back anytime soon, email me and I will send you a questionnaire. Thanks for your feedback!

I’ve included a little photo gallery from our past blogs just for fun.

Tracy's Kids at Carroll Square 2012

Tracy’s Kids at Carroll Square 2012

Coloring the Model Magic

Coloring the Model MagicIv pole

Ladybug fairy

Ladybug fairy

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Sticky Art

Recently, a little girl started to come to our clinic for treatment. Although she is only 3 years old she is very brave when it comes to her medical procedures. The only thing that bothers her is the medical tape, which irritates the skin around her port (a tube for infusing medicine and drawing blood). Her fear of the sticky tape causes her a lot of distress and her parents as well as the medical team have been working hard each visit to reassure her that the tape is not going to hurt her.  Today we had an opportunity to make art about this fear when she exclaimed, “I want to make sticky art”!

With an array of colorful tape, stickers, glue dots and band-aids at hand this little girl set to work creating a flower garden. As she worked, the sticky materials stuck to her fingers and she talked about what it felt like to remove something that was stuck to her. With a sense of achievement, she peeled the band-aids off her fingers and stuck them to the paper.  

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Using sticky art materials and medical supplies to create her flower garden helped this little girl express her fear about the tape around her port.  Being in control of how much tape and how many band-aids she placed on her paper allowed for her to gain power over something scary. This is a good example of how art therapy can help address the fears that can come from some of the medical procedures our kids have to endure and how the art making process can help to empower them.

Just Kidding Around

Sometimes there’s a fine line between art-making and play-acting. The art-making process can move in and out of pretend play, and sometimes art products turn into toys. In these moments, the art therapist, advanced degree and all, becomes an actor in the play. She may find herself sporting yarn headgear and a marker-drawn mustache to play the villain, as in the picture below. There is an element of trust here—I could have said no to the headgear and the marker mustache, but I said yes because I trusted both the patient and myself to be playful but not let things get out of hand.

Scary faces

Scary faces

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

Another recent example of the transformation from art to play is the story of the fish friends. At the art therapy conference this summer I learned how to make a printed, painted and sewn fish. When I taught the process to one of our patients and his mom we ended up with two fish friends who played all day.  His fish and mine swam and rested, fought off snakes, destroyed and rebuilt an entire imaginary town—working together to get  a frightened five-year old through a long day of chemo and physical exams.

Fish Friends

Fish Friends

Tracy’s Kids San Antonio News!

A San Antonio TV station recently ran a segment about our work at Methodist Children’s.

In two minutes and thirty seconds, it captures the essence of what we do for children with cancer.

Kathleen, the featured art therapist, explains, “the children we work with don’t have choices about getting medicine, they don’t get choices about when they go to get treatment.  But when they come to the playroom, everything is up to them.  They get to make what they want, they get to use what they want, they get to decide whether they even want to do it or not…”  “[Tracy’s Kids] gives them a way to express themselves without having to talk and a lot of times these kids don’t want to talk about [their feelings.] They are either not ready, or it is just too hard to find the words — especially for younger kids.  But they can put all their feelings into the art work.” One little girl in the clinic confides that the art projects “make her not want to think about everything she is going through” — and one day she wants to be an Art Therapist so she can help other kids like her. [Her ambition is not really far fetched — as a handful of our former patients have done just that.]  One of the experienced nurses enthusiastically relates how Tracy’s Kids “decreases fear through color and drawing and gluing.  We love it.  Literally it has changed our lives.”

From Kidney to Bird: A Sibling’s Art Experience

As school approaches, I find myself reflecting back on the summer and all the patients and their siblings who joined us at the art table each day.  Summer is sometimes the only time when siblings are able to come along to their brother or sister’s medical appointments and many siblings look forward to the opportunity to make art.

Last week a patient who had undergone surgery to have one of her kidneys removed came to the clinic for a check- up. She brought her brother with her and they both spent the morning playing with model magic (a kind of squishy dough similar to play-dough). Each time the sister went back for her medical treatment her brother would start to mold and color his model magic to resemble various body parts.

Coloring the Model Magic

Coloring the Model Magic

At first the model magic was colored and flatted to look like skin, which he playfully flopped onto his arm. A few minutes later the skin was colored and balled up to resemble a little heart. The little ball was then colored blue, resulting in a grayish blob he decided looked like a liver. After more marker was added the model magic started to take on the form of a little pink bean.  He spent a while perfecting the tiny form until he finally identified it as a kidney. As he held the kidney in his hands he talked about how worried he was about his sister and how scared he felt when she had undergone surgery.  He talked about how he felt different from his sister because he didn’t have anything wrong with his body.

Creating the kidney

Creating the kidney

After sharing his feelings he then decided that he wanted to make a gift for his sister and he morphed the little kidney into a bird.

bird for his sister

bird for his sister

This is a good example of why sibling participation in art therapy is so important. At the art table siblings are given a voice to express their own feelings, concerns and/or misconceptions of their brother or sister’s medical condition.  Being able to make a gift or special token also provides siblings with a meaningful way to contribute to their sibling’s recovery process.

Moss for band-aids!

In addition to bring an artist, I love to garden. I recently visited a moss nursery and learned a whole lot about how many kinds of mosses (Bryophytes) there are–lots!– and how very ancient and adaptive they are. I am creating a moss garden in my front yard, taking advantage of all the sizes, shapes, textures and colors of these amazing primitive plants to make a living collage of textures and shades of green.

Sphagnum closeup

Sphagnum Moss

Whole view

Moss garden

Nice light

Moss garden closeup

  Kids on chemotherapy don’t have very strong immune systems, so they can’t use natural materials like sticks and leaves or dig in the dirt, but I learned there is one kind of moss that is naturally bacteria free, and was used to make bandages in World War I! It’s called Sphagnum Moss, and it actually covers 1% of the surface of the earth. As I work in my moss garden, I find it kind of amazing to think about a plant that is so clean all by itself it was once used for a band-aid!

TK San Antonio in the News!

Kathleen Sutter, our Tracy’s Kids Art Therapist at Methodist Children’s  Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, some of the kids and staff were interviewd for the local news. Here’s the link to the story so we can all meet them and hear how much the folks in San Antonio appreciate the work of Tracy’s Kids.