March 17, 2020

Not in Kansas anymore

Sarah Tapper transferred to UW-Superior to pursue her dream of becoming an art therapist

UW-Superior student Sarah Tapper

Sarah Tapper was in her sophomore year as a psychology major at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, when a study abroad trip to Italy ignited her passion for art.

“Everywhere I went – Rome, Florence, the Vatican – art was everywhere. I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I never even took an art class in high school, but that trip just sparked something in me. I took a drawing class and realized I love the process of learning about and creating art.”

When Sarah returned from the trip, she met with her adviser and told him she was thinking of changing majors. He suggested she look into art therapy. While the college she was attending offered a concentration in art therapy, she didn’t feel it was as comprehensive as she wanted. Sarah knew she wanted a program that could adequately prepare her for graduate school. So she began searching online and found seven undergraduate art therapy programs across the U.S. One of them was UW-Superior.

“I started looking for the ones that offer ample internship and field experience opportunities and UW-Superior checked that box,” she said. “So, I decided to come for a visit. Within five minutes, I knew this was the right place for me.”

Sarah said the beauty of the Twin Ports area and the vibrant arts community immediately captivated her. Then, when she saw the expansive art facilities on campus, met professor Gloria Eslinger, and learned about how diverse the student body was at UW-Superior, she was sold.

“I told Gloria about my goals and how I was looking for a program that would allow me to gain hands-on experience with a wide range of ages and settings,” said Sarah. “She immediately began naming people and organizations she wanted to connect me with. I just felt so supported and knew I was in the right place.”

Sarah’s decision was reinforced her first week of class when she began meeting other art therapy students. “I sat down in my first class, professional practices, and everyone was so friendly. I met one of my best friends that day and by the end of the week, I knew almost everyone in my classes and we were hanging out. Gloria kept checking in with me and connecting me with other transfer students and making sure I was getting connected.”

Sarah is now interning with the Duluth Art Institute where she helps run the Education Building and teaches drawing classes for 6-11-year olds. She also works on weekends with an elderly woman who is an artist with Alzheimer’s. “I just try to help her create and express herself again. It’s been so rewarding.”

“I’m trying to get everything out of my educational experience that I can, and my professors know that, so I’m always like, ‘What do ya’ got for me?’ and they always have some new opportunity or challenge to offer up,” said Sarah.

“Sarah is a professor’s dream student – eager, passionate about art therapy, and full of intrinsic motivation that defines her as an invested active learner,” said Eslinger.

“I believe that everyone can make art,” said Sarah. “I want to teach people how to use it as a way of expressing themselves, exploring their emotions and healing.”

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UW-Superior’s art therapy program prepares students to apply for advanced degrees in art therapy or counseling, and to work in the mental health field.

Students learn how to engage people’s minds and feelings through art and how to use the connection between art and psychology in therapy. Students also have ample opportunity to develop their own artistic talent and create a portfolio.

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