Graduate school hosts art therapy

Photo of a person using materials in the art studio
Emma Johnson / The Mossy Log

Lewis & Clark has many options for students who want to practice art, one of which is found out on the grad campus. Every Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m., the LC Graduate School Art Therapy program holds open studio sessions, which provide participants with a gentle prompt to guide their artwork, relaxing conversation and art supplies. 

The sessions are open to all LC students, faculty and staff. Sign-ups are available online under the Art Therapy tab of the graduate school website, but people interested can show up on time to Rogers 105 with a mask and there are almost always openings. Though this is a graduate school program, undergraduates are welcome and encouraged to attend. 

Art Therapy Instructor Beth Ann Short is the faculty supervisor for the open studio. 

“It’s for anybody; you don’t need art skills or experience,” Short said. 

Short has been teaching art therapy at LC since 2018. This is when the program and many of its students transferred over to LC from Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, which closed due to the pandemic. 

“Art therapy is so amazing because you can use it with any population, and I have seen the power of it on so many levels,” Short said. 

Short said the purpose of art therapy is to look at clients in a holistic, intersectional way and help them use art to process challenging emotions. Short also said that taking creative risks can help people feel more resilient and self-confident. 

However, the open studio sessions are not held to the same standard of formality as traditional art therapy. The sessions are run by second-year practicum students to help them gain experience leading a studio. The students practice facilitating conversation and helping participants use certain media and art techniques. There are some guiding questions, but attendees are only encouraged to share to their level of comfort. 

Over the entire year, three students lead these studio sessions weekly. This involves coming up with a new prompt for each session, compiling inspiration to guide the conversation, and establishing a clear beginning, middle and end to each session. Participants get to choose which of the three prompts speaks to them the most, and they are also free to switch between sessions. 

On Feb. 23, Julia Metro ‘’25 led  a session with the theme “exploring the concept of perfection vs. imperfection.” She gave a presentation showing some artistic and natural images, along with explanations of how they applied to the theme. 

“It’s rare that people look at nature and think that it’s ugly, but nature is often imperfect,” Metro said. 

According to Metro, this idea also applies to the Japanese art and philosophy concept of Wabi-sabi, which places value on life’s imperfections. Her slideshow contained several images of broken and mended pottery, dried flowers, wooden objects and plants that embody the concept of Wabi-Sabi.

Feb. 23 was a virtual art session due to the snow conditions. Nonetheless, there were several people in the Zoom meeting working on various projects. For example, Savren Daly ’25 was knitting a freeform, currently undecided piece.

Daly had previously struggled with knitting and crocheting because of the complex stitches and how easy they are to mess up, but they wanted to work on it again and remember that perfection does not always need to be the goal with art. 

“I’m trying to pick (knitting) back up again and look at it in a different way and see that it’s ok to miss a stitch sometimes,” Daly said.

A few other artists in the meeting – which included current students, alumni and a participant from New York –  expressed that this idea inspired them to embrace imperfection and enjoy the art-making process.

Most of the open studio participants are LC-affiliated, but Short explained that they also conduct outreach in a variety of different ways. The program advertises through social media (@lcarttherapy on Instagram), the alumni network and online platforms such as the American Art Therapy Association. 

Short anticipates that many people will come to see the benefits that art therapy offers. Prospective, current and former students attend these sessions which provide a space to get acquainted and make connections with other LC students.  

“Creativity is a choice,” Short said, and if anyone wants to make that choice, there is always a welcoming space Thursdays in Rogers Hall 105. 

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