WWU art students focus on art therapy

William Woods University’s Art Club traveled to Joplin
recently to provide art activities for the tornado-ravaged community. The group
spent the day with residents making art from recycled plastic bottles.

It was one in a series of art therapy projects WWU art
students have conducted in the last few years.
 
After Jessica Bargate, a WWU art student from Jefferson City,
heard a story on National Public Radio about suffering children in the Joplin community,
she was motivated to share the story with other WWU art students.
 
“They had interviewed mothers of small children and it was
evident that the family unit is still kind of destroyed in some way. We’ve
always felt art was a way to help people so we decided to travel to Joplin to
share this perspective with the community. We wanted them to be exposed to the
healing power of art,” Bargate said.
 
Working on the project in Joplin were students Bargate, Erica
Begley, Liz Cato, Katie Dewey, Katie Gannon, Meghan Greenwalt, Jamie Lanagan,
Kate Rademan, as well as Terry Martin, professor of art; Carolyn Boyer-Ferhat,
assistant professor of psychology; and Tammy Carter, director of multicultural
affairs.
 
“We had people that were really disabled and weren’t capable
of doing much, but what they did you could see really impacted them when they
left,” Martin said.
 
When the WWU art building burned down in 1997, the art
department experienced a similar feeling of loss.
 
“I can only imagine what having some color back in Joplin
meant for the community because of how much it meant to us after the art
building burned down,” said Martin.
 
After the art projects were finished in Joplin, the WWU Art Club
took what they had designed to St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which suffered
a direct hit from the F5 tornado and five patients died as a result.
 
“The hospital is white everywhere because all the previous
artwork they had was taken by the tornado. They were so excited to just have
some color in their halls,” said Bargate.
 
“You don’t hear much about Joplin in the news anymore, and
you kind of assume everything is fixed so traveling down there was a real eye-opener
to see what still needs to be done.”
 
While in Joplin, the art club had the opportunity to meet
with Kristen Trenary Stremel, a 1991 WWU graduate who is a volunteer alumni
coordinator for William Woods in the Joplin area. Stremel is a critical care
nurse at St. John’s Regional Medical Center.
 
“It was a great experience because students and professors
had the opportunity to work as colleagues rather than student and teacher,”
said Martin. “It was a very successful trip.”
 
Art therapy is a research-based practice that has the
potential to help individuals who are dealing with psychological issues express
themselves. Over the past few years, WWU has strived to expand it with each
semester. Projects designed show everyone that they are capable of doing art.
 
Bargate said, “A lot of people think it’s only for the
creative or people that have done art their whole lives, but everyone can do
art.”
 
The art club frequently
works with the girls from the Rosa Parks Center on campus, a home to female
juvenile offenders that strives to provide them structured therapeutic
treatment.  Art students have also worked
with patients at St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis and autistic youths at
Jefferson City Capital Arts.
 
In previous years, student
artists have brought color and life to the walls of SERVE, a non-profit agency
serving the poor in Fulton; to Fulton State Hospital; and to Jefferson City’s
new St. Mary’s Creektrail Clinics, which operate as part of St. Mary’s Health
Center.
 
Curriculum is designed every week to allow the creative right
side of the brain to rule over the left side of the brain which tends to fixate
on stress and worry.
 
“We all have these elements to ourselves, but we also have a
spirit. When the spirit is conditioned in the right way, it can help the body
heal,” said Martin. “When people engage their imagination, they really get in
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