Perhaps some explanations are in order. What exactly is an Altered Art Therapist? Obviously, I am an art therapist and I work in altered art and it all fits together rather nicely. There is a deeper meaning to it however.
Simply put, I have been altered by art. It has shaped me since my early teen years. I always enjoyed art making, but as a teenager it truly became a passion. Not only a passion, but an identity at an age when those seem so hard to come by. When I was 16, my art teacher returned from a workshop, excited to tell me about this thing she had learned of called art therapy. I did not have a clue what it was, but I knew that I had found my calling. This was way before the days of Google, so I dug up information wherever I could find it. Once I got to college, I found an art therapist in the area who took me on for a mini-internship. I was drawn to political science and anthropology, but I came back to art therapy over and over again. I sent away to every grad program in the United States for information and took every psychology and art class I could to meet the prerequisites. Along the way, I was majoring in fine arts and working in the fibers studio until the wee hours. I knew that I wanted art to be part of my professional life, but was doubtful of my ability to maintain a career as a full-time artist.
After graduation, I worked at a state hospital for a year. I wanted to make sure that I was cut out for working in the mental health field. I then moved halfway across the country to begin grad school. It was a strenuous program with a heavy emphasis on personal art making. I teach in that program now and I likewise stress to my students that they must continue their personal art making.
Art has altered me, fed me, given me solace, challenged me, cleansed me, connected me to others, made things clearer, rejuvenated me and given me a forum to tell my story. As Maya Angelou says “wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”