What do you do in your current position?
I do Art Therapy with adults struggling with mood disorders, anxiety, depression and other co-morbidities in a residential setting. Some co-morbidities may include eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol and other drug addictions, and others. The program I work for can currently take up to 24 residents. We primarily treat young adults ages 18-30 but now have an over 30 track. Everyone has Art Therapy group at least twice, sometimes three times a week. Art Therapy rotates every other day with Recreation Therapy.
Which classes, activities, professors, etc at UW-Superior prepared you for your current work?
Susan Loonsk 100 percent changed my outlook on art - how to make it, view it and appreciate it. My first painting class was with her, and when I walked into the studio as a first semester freshman, I saw her sitting on the floor with a gallon of glue, plastic wrapped canvas and a Walmart bag of odds and ends. She tore open the wrapped canvas, poured a heaping mound of glue on it, tossed on some odds and ends and just played with the materials while laughing and making a mess. This moment completely changed my idea of what art, and painting specifically, was. All the experience I previously had with painting was technical, intentional and with paint! There was no paint, and she was simply having fun and appreciating the process. This is what painting was supposed to be through the eyes of an art therapist. Simple and beautiful. I fell in love with the idea of experiencing the journey more than the outcome.
Tim Cleary’s 2D and 3D classes have proven to be two of the most beneficial classes in regards to how I run my art therapy studio now. The problem solving, critical thinking and simple frustration tolerance that he pushed us through has inspired some of my views for people’s success in art therapy. If I can help motivate someone who has anxiety with perfectionism to branch away from drawing with pencil and venture into a world of uncertainty through painting with color, that’s a great step in success.
I regularly encourage my residents to step out of the box they’ve built and try something new. I would not be as successful with my follow through in regards to this if it weren’t for my experience in Tim Cleary’s classes. I also had Tim for small metals class and sculpture class.
What do you think makes UW-Superior a special place to study?
No brainer. The class sizes and Gloria Eslinger. The grad program maxed out at 14 students. Not only were we given the opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, but we were provided a space to intimately learn how each of us worked with clients and how to be most effective. Gloria was such a motivator, not only for us to provide meaningful therapy, but for us also to grow in comfort and confidence with ourselves as providers. In the Art Therapy classes Gloria provided, we always created and shared our pieces. When I first began running my own Art Therapy groups, I used this structure as a guide. Whenever a resident of mine completes an art piece, they share and process it with the group. Everyone then provides feedback, on what stood out to them the most and how they personally connect to the piece. Gloria’s classes served as the perfect model for real life Art Therapy.
During grad school, I had the unique opportunity to do a study abroad to Oaxaca and study local art. It essentially was a blend of Sociology and Art education. I often reminisce about this experience and all the personal growth I accomplished.
What was your favorite thing to do in the Duluth/Superior area?
Red Mug was a blessing. I honestly loved all of the food options the Duluth/Superior offered. India Palace and Hanabi in Duluth were two favorites. The Anchor Bar in Superior was wonderful. Outside of the obvious night life that Superior/Duluth has to offer, I loved all the local art. The opportunities to view local art and have your art displayed. Homegrown Music Festival was fun.
If you could use just one or a few words to describe how UW-Superior affected you, what would they be?
First, self-evaluating. I learned so much about who I didn’t want to be and how to become someone I respected and could be proud of. Second, inspired. After graduating from UW-Superior, I was someone with a new and fresh perspective, an Art Therapist who had different professors, different program expectations and guidelines and a different view on what makes art, art.
What was something unexpected you discovered about yourself while at UW-Superior?
The discovery of my independence. Again, I’ve always been motivated and optimistic, but I grew up in a town of 388 people and graduated high school in a class of 53 students. To say the least, I was sheltered until I moved six hours north of my childhood comfort zone and into a town where I knew no one. I learned that I needed to be my biggest advocate with my everyday life. This is a lesson I now have the privilege of encouraging my residents in experiencing.