Beginning Sept. 25, Hospice of the Carolina Foothills in Columbus, N.C. will feature an art therapy exhibit by Merilyn Field, Director of the Art Therapy program at Converse College. The exhibit runs through Oct. 31 at the Hospice Center, 130 Forest Glen Drive. A reception, which is open to the public, will be held on the first day of the exhibit (Sept. 25) from 3:30 -5:30 p.m. The exhibit can be seen during regular office hours, Monday – Friday, from 8:30 to 5:00. For more information, call Hospice at 828-894-7000 or 800-617-7132.
Entitled “Healing Journey,” the exhibit represents the organization’s first foray into presenting art therapy. “Our staff members and volunteers bring comfort and peace to individuals and families in the midst of suffering, grief and loss,” said Marsha Van Hecke, Director of Community Awareness for the organization. “We’re trying to find new ways to reach people, and while this is our first art therapy exhibit, it fits very well with the mission of Hospice.”
The 20-piece exhibit included various mediums that, according to Field, represent the effectiveness of art therapy. “Many traditional artists will take a specific medium and explore it as much as possible,” she said. “But art therapy is most often a spontaneous act, and the artist will mostly use whatever is handy. The ‘Healing Journey’ exhibit in particular will feature pencil drawing, pastels, oil pastels, acrylics, paper, photography and stone sculpture. On exhibit are examples of my own responses to grief and loss, including the stages of my emotional response to the diagnosis of breast cancer and my response after the terrorists’ attack of 9-11. There is also the art work of a group of women cancer survivors, including ‘Transformation Coat,’ which demonstrates collective grief.”
The exhibit also includes works that represent a tangible record of a person’s life. “Recalling a summary of family, friends, community, events and achievements of a life well-lived and creating a tangible record to be passed down negates a sense of meaninglessness and despair; it promotes a legacy of integrity and pride,” Field said. “Reminiscence can involve all family members in a positive endeavor with the Hospice patient and provide an opportunity to express emotions that otherwise might go unspoken or unacknowledged.”
At Converse, Field directs the only undergraduate degreed art therapy program in the Southeast. She first became interested in art therapy while in college in 1992. “My major was psychology and I had a strong desire to help people,” she said. “I attended a workshop given by an art therapist, and saw that it was the ideal combination of psychology and art.”
Field’s wide range of contacts with health care professionals allow her students the opportunity to work with such diverse populations as emotionally handicapped students, developmentally delayed students, children and adolescents at risk, Alzheimer patients, cancer survivor groups, and the chronically mentally ill. She is a member of the American Art Therapy Association, the National Coalition of Art Therapy Educators, and the President of the South Carolina Art Therapy Association.