Exhibit at Converse Explores Trauma Recovery Through Art Therapy

By Amanda Burgess ’06

An October exhibit at the Milliken Art Gallery focuses on trauma recovery through art therapy.

The exhibit, “Circles of Hope and Healing: Exploring Trauma Recovery through Art Therapy,” will run Oct. 7-22, and is presented by the South Carolina Association of Art Therapists in conjunction with the art therapy program at Converse College. A free reception for the public will be held on Oct. 22 at 6:00 p.m. in the gallery. For more information, contact the Milliken Art Gallery at (864) 596-9181 or send an e-mail to art.design@converse.edu.

“Trauma is everywhere, especially after 9/11,” said Merilyn Field, Director of Art Therapy at Converse and President of the South Carolina Association of Art Therapists. “Trauma occurs with events as minor as a car wreck or as major as having someone lost in the war in Iraq or the World Trade Center. Trauma can occur even with the apprehension of an event.”

The exhibit is the culmination of a two-year project, and the works illustrate responses by participants to the question, “What are your symbols of hope and healing?” Much of the exhibit will feature mandalas in the form of counter transference art – works by art therapists reacting to their experience with clients. Mandalas are circular designs used in many cultures as a meditative and spiritual focus. A typical mandala has a center point and cardinal points radiating from the center.

In conjunction with the exhibit, a conference for South Carolina art therapists will be held Oct. 22-24. The conference will feature presenter Linda Gantt, the executive director at the Trauma Recovery Institute in Morgantown, W.Va., where she has been an art therapist for 30 years. The three-day conference will focus on art therapy treatment of trauma-related disorders in adults and children.

The art therapy program at Converse was initiated in the ’90s with its first graduating class in 1995. Converse is the only school in the Southeast to offer an undergraduate program, and currently has 20 students enrolled. Converse College will also begin offering a music therapy degree in the fall of 2005, expanding upon the college’s commitment and focus on the healing arts.

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