Friday, May 6, 2011

Prelude to Mother's Day

Waters of Life, ©2003, H.Hunter, 11" x 15," Collage
It was Bring Your Child to Work Day last week, a day parents working at our hospital bring along their children, in order to explore careers in healthcare. We had speakers, tours and tables all set up to teach kids about a multitude of possible futures.

My assignment was clear: meet the oncoming wave of children, 50 or so, with a quick description of what it means to be an art therapist. A Twitter dilemma if I ever saw one. (Describe what I do in 140 characters or less.) In addition, I offered them an art therapy activity.

I wanted to engage the kids, find out what they might wish to do when they grew up, recognizing any answer is a work in progress.

To that end, I had a collection of muslin dolls, ready to be drawn upon in whatever way a child's dream might dictate. Most of the children wanted to grab the doll and go (and what would you want with a naked baby doll, I ask you?) I politely let them know the talk was part of the bargain. No art, no doll.

My invitation was often initially met with a blank stare, but when I motioned them over to join other kids at a table filled with fabric markers, more colored pens began to "tatoo" muslin skins, transforming the blank "canvas" of that doll into a future self.

It was marvelous and all types of dolls emerged--nurses and doctor dolls of course, but also singers, computer geeks and pharmacists. I was so happy that the children felt that they were able to supplement the ample information that they'd heard with a chance to internalize their knowledge. Perhaps some expressed a dormant desire, a curious inclination just waiting for the opportunity to emerge.

It's taken a long time for me to lean into my future. As a child on the playground, I was often stumped when we talked about what we wanted to be when we grew up. The presumed careers for girls, teaching and nursing, did not feel right. But sitting behind the table last week, wearing a bright pink sweater and sparkly earrings, I felt I was embodying the self that had been waiting all those years ago, an artist, who uses art as medicine.


  1. This sounds like a wonderful event, and how beautiful that you felt so happy in your self as artist and healer.

  2. Altoon--the event itself and the pressure to speak without thinking too much helped me go one step further towards accepting myself as both an artist and healer--it is often easier to hop from one identity to another--(knowing all the while that there is another larger self that embodies both of them...)

  3. What a wonderful exercise! I wonder what I would have done if I had been given that assignment as a child......I had no idea what I wanted to "be". My brother was the "artist" so that never felt like an option. Librarian perhaps....

    Anyway, Happy Mother's Day Hannah and thank you for all the beautiful work you do in the world!

  4. Isn't it strange how for some of us, becoming an artist takes years? I'm reminded of a photograph emerging in slow motion, floating gently in a bath of developer.

  5. I know for a fact that if I had walked into your art room as I child I would have left with a burning ambition to be an art therapist.

  6. What a wonderful experience for all of you. I'm grateful those children had that moment with you, you've touched many lives in a very deep way. You do good work.

  7. Thank you Robyn--I take that as high praise indeed:)

    Patty--It was a great experience--specially considering that you can go into these kind of events with a bit of a jaded attitude--and yet with just the slightest adjustment, it becomes magical. Something I didn't mention in the post was a young boy who came up to our table for the 2nd year in a row. After last year's doll, he'd been hospitalized for an illness. Normally a needle averse person, his experience of making the doll and inserting a pretend iv helped him remain cool, calm and collected during his hospitalization. Hooray!

  8. What a great story and I love that you find yourself sitting just where you want to grand is that...all sparkley and pink and wonderfully inspiring to the future....good medicine indeed...
    I agree with Robyn '-)