Tag Archives: art

Transformation of the Ordinary

I am a Creative Arts Therapist with a focus in Dance/movement therapy (DMT). The Creative Arts therapies can be an avenue for creating a symbolic transformation of individual, or community experience. DMT can use the same characteristics of weight, balance, and dynamics as do everyday actions such as walking, working, playing, or communication. Out of our everyday and ordinary motor activities, DMT can select, heighten or subdue, gestures/postures and body movement to achieve something which transcends the ordinary.

For instance as a teen I learned a West African Maize Dance from the Arthur Hall African American Dance company. This dance uses the movements of planting, tending, and harvesting of maize as the core elements of the dance. Taking these agrarian movements and enacting them outside of their usual context begins the process of symbolic transformation. As the movements are performed an element of artistic quality begins to emerge and becomes evident in the transitional movements that occur between planting, tending, and harvesting. This Maize Dance combines the ordinary with the extra ordinary; taking the everyday actions and ritualizing them in a way that expresses and celebrates an important aspect of West African culture.Dance Movement Therapy and Children

Symbolic transformation can take place on an individual level as well. Once, working with a client an opportunity arose to explore the bodily expression of sadness; i.e. what are you doing/feeling physically when you are sad. The client took the ordinary movements/gestures/postures of their sadness and made them bigger and smaller, connecting, un-connecting and reconnecting them as they slowly evolved into a pattern. As this client continued with their exploration a transformation occurred and new movements, suggestive of another feeling emerged. Asking the client to add words to their exploration of the new movements provided a clearer understanding of sadness.

Enacting movements/postures/gestures outside of their usual context allows the possibility of experiencing in way that can be more; objective and subjective. Making bigger and smaller, connecting and reconnecting, movement and feelings emerge uncensored, allowing a different understanding of the original feeling and all that surrounds it. The therapeutic process of dance movement therapy can guide the mover as they explore, uncovering the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Recovery and addiction art project

In the next few days, the doors will appear in Reno NV.


A shadow figure is painted on a door from the Lear Theater as part of the art project, Doors to Recovery. The local artist created door represents the addiction and recovery process and will be on display at Junkee Clothing Exchange in Midtown throughout July as part of Artown.(Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)

You will see them if you stop into city hall or when you’re grabbing a cup of coffee at Dreamer’s Coffee House in Midtown.

They will beckon for you to examine them. Take in their various colors, sculptures and depictions.

They might have you asking yourself, “What are these all about?”

The message can be found in the varying images, including shadows, walking shoes on a path, butterflies and blossoming trees: When one door closes on addiction, another opens to a new life and a second chance.

These are the Doors of Recovery.

The public art project, sponsored by Transforming Youth Recovery, will be on display in multiple locations in downtown and Midtown throughout July as part of Artown.

It will feature 38 local artist-created doors from the Lear Theater representing the transformation process from addiction to recovery. The goal of the project is to raise addiction and recovery awareness and celebrate the youth who are rebuilding their lives today, Transforming Youth Recovery’s Kate High said.

“The doors are brilliant and fantastic. A lot of the artists have experience — some personal, others with their families or loved ones — with addiction, or have lost people they’ve cared about,” High said. “There are a lot of feelings that went into them: ransformation, journey and metamorphosis from dark to light. The artists have all been excited to support a good cause — it is a problem and a disease and not someone’s choice when they started.”

Transforming Youth

A year ago, Stacie Mathewson’s son lost his battle to addiction.

Two years before that, while he was in recovery, she developed a growing interest in helping youth in recovery. She founded the Stacie Mathewson Foundation to raise addiction and recovery awareness and promote education in communities nationwide.

In 2013, she started Transforming Youth Recovery with the mission to “transform youth recovery — one community, one school, one student at a time.”

The organization currently is working to fund 100 collegiate recovery programs and funded the first collegiate pilot program at the University of Nevada, Reno — Nevada Recovery and Prevention (NRAP), High said.

She said in less than two years, Transforming Youth Recovery has tripled the number of collegiate recovery programs across the country, offering hundreds of students support they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

“The goal is to raise awareness of the nature of the disease and to celebrate young people in recovery,” High said. “We want to break stigma of the disease — it’s not a black mark against them — and encourage people to get into recovery. It’s hard and requires support, but it’s possible. Lives can be turned around. It’s the use that cause the behavior and not the person.”

NRAP student worker and member in recovery Jordan Fugate said she understands what it means to turn your life around. She said she was incarcerated at 21, and today, she’s in school, has her own car and is working with the recovery program to assist others in their recovery.

She said she wants to give hope to others.

“In college, alcohol is everywhere and it’s harder to be in recovery,” Fugate said. “But, you don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom — or even need to be dealing with addiction — you can come connect and make friends, find support and be part of sober activities.”

NRAP currently has about 50 students and 12 core members, ranging from 18 years old to 33. While the main campus is located at UNR, there is also a part-time campus at Truckee Meadows Community College.

“NRAC is two years old, but a lot of people don’t know we’re around,” Fugate said. “This will help make

everyone aware that there are college support groups on the campuses. It’s benefiting those locally, and we wanted to be part of Doors to Recovery to make people aware.”

The program is open to students who are choosing to live a sober lifestyle. It offers peer and professional support, Alcoholic, Eating Disorders and Narcotics Anonymous programs, as well as wellness groups, a grief group and a sexual trauma support group.

“It’s a place to come hang out and meet people,” Fugate said. “This has helped me to live a college lifestyle sober. It’s difficult (for students) when there are bars around campus or casinos for events and restaurants. It might be more difficult to be sober in college in Reno. There is the 24-hour lifestyle here that other colleges don’t have.”

Fugate said for the Doors project, NRAP created an image of a moral compass and various dark and light colors.

“On a panel is a compass because people who get sober talk about their moral compass, and how your values and morals change when you’re an addict,” Fugate said. “There are bright colors at the top and darker colors on the bottom; the light is overtaking the dark.”

Powerful art

The late Moya Olsen Lear gave Mathewson pews from the inside of the Lear Theater many years ago, High said.

She said Mathewson had kept the pews in storage with ideas of transforming and auctioning them off to support Transforming Youth Recovery, but the pews were 15 feet long and weren’t the right fit for the project.

There were, however, dozens of unmarked door panels in the basement of the Lear that wouldn’t be used in the restoration of the building. Mathewson swapped the pews for the door panels.

That was the beginning of Doors to Recovery.

“Art is something that everyone can relate to,” High said. “The doors are celebrating recovery. Art has universal appeal; it’s a way of telling story in so many different ways. It’s society’s way of expressing itself.”

Artist Carol Foldvary-Anderson said getting involved in the project has been a transformational process for her, too.

She said while she hasn’t personally been affected by addiction, she believes everyone can relate to recovering and transitioning into something.

“I think it gives the community an awareness of the transforming aspect of recovery,” Foldvary-Anderson said. “It creates an incentive to seek recovery. Some don’t know it exists or are ashamed they have a problem and they don’t want to share it with anyone. How do you bring yourself to the place for help? I wanted to make my door a beautiful and rewarding place. The awareness for recovery is powerful.”

Initially, she had wanted to create a door that represented three things: peace, happiness and joy. But, as she began working on it, a butterfly image came to her. She said it was iconic for change — they transition into something extremely beautiful and she wanted that to be a big part of her door’s message.

Her door, “Metamorphosis of Change,” features paint, molding and a large, black butterfly with a smaller butterfly on top of it. There are also several mirrors placed along the door.

She said the shadow butterfly represents the hidden nuances we have inside ourselves and the smaller butterfly is who we are and who we are becoming. The mirrors are the reflective side of ourselves — look at what you are doing and keep tabs on yourself.

“For me, it was a personal growth, as the artist creating this. I went through transitions and changes just working on this as far as what I first submitted (for the project) and what it turned out being,” Foldvary-Anderson said. “A lot of artists showed frustration, agony and pain in their art. I wanted to show the other side: a place of beauty.”

Art and Asthma

The fear and anxiety associated with an asthma attack can last long after the attack has subsided. Now research, published online in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, reports that the art therapy showed benefits both during the therapy and for months afterward. “Asthma impacts not only a child’s physical well-being but also has a considerable effect on a child’s quality of life and psychological development,” said Anya Beebe, MA, an art therapist at National Jewish Health. “Our study shows that art therapy for children with severe, chronic asthma is clearly beneficial. Our results were striking and persisted for months after treatment stopped.”

In art therapy, patients create artwork that helps express their feelings about an illness, a trauma or medical concerns. The artwork can then serve as a starting point for discussions about these issues. Researchers believe that creating art helps participants establish distance between themselves and their medical concerns. They learn to understand that they have a personal identity outside of their illness. It is believed to be particularly effective with children because they often do not have the adult capabilities to verbally articulate their emotions, perceptions, or beliefs, and often can more comfortably convey ideas in ways other than talking.

You can read more at the National Jewish Health website.