WLU students showcase work at Creative Arts Therapy Exhibit

Creative Arts Therapy Exhibit wall.

On Saturday, Jan. 22, West Liberty University creative arts therapy (CAT) undergraduates and art therapy and counseling graduate students showcased their work at the annual Creative Arts Therapy Exhibit held at the Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre, located in downtown Wheeling, W.Va. While the greater art therapy and counseling program is relatively new to the Hilltop, this is the third year that the gallery has been showcased for the community. Creative Arts Therapy Instructor, Terri Giller, elaborated on this community relationship by sharing that the exhibit hopes to provide awareness, as well as advocate, for the profession of art therapy, as it “can lead to organizations seeking the skills of art therapists to facilitate healing art opportunities for communities… this can [also] improve access to art therapy services for individuals.”

From a student perspective, the opportunities that the gallery provides are invaluable not only to their needs as an artist, through showcasing their artwork for the public, but also their needs as a creative arts therapist, as both a practitioner and student. When asked why the exhibit was so significant for CAT students, Giller shared that it affords students the opportunity “to reflect on their own creative process” as well as their artwork in a new way; “[through] observing the piece in a public avenue, witnessing the impact that work has on the community, sharing with family and friends and gaining personal insights upon viewing the artwork in a new setting (outside of the classroom or studio).”

While the show is put on for the overall CAT program in general, student involvement is not limited to simply submitting and experiencing their own and others artwork in a new light, as members of the CAT Club choose the artwork they want to be displayed, prepare it for display, set up the show and attend the opening reception.

When asked what the process of art making meant to them, many CAT students shared that art is a way for them, not only as artists, but as people, to express what cannot be said through words. Senior Manuela Hoffman of the CAT program spoke on art bring a way for her to “tap into her inner needs”. “Sometimes when I don’t know how to express myself in words or don’t want to, art allows me to process what I need to express in another way, creatively. It brings me satisfaction and peace to be in that safe space. In this place I feel in flow with meeting my needs. Sometimes art is just the process of practice and having fun. Sometimes art helps me express emotions. Art is a daily practice for me. I always enjoy the process. For me it is an act of self-love.”

Defined by the American Art Therapy Association as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory and human experience,” it is clear to see how much the CAT program here on campus has already brought to the greater campus community.