On 15th February 2017 London Art Therapy Centre was invited to run a half-term workshop for Noah’s Ark Charity. There were 20 families invited which meant parents, siblings, carers and wheelchairs in a big space totaling about 80 participants. Art psychotherapist Jon Martyn ran the workshop assisted by final year trainee Sarah Blick and Georgie Biggs who wrote this blog.
I really enjoyed working with Jon and Sarah and the Noah’s Ark team to create what felt like a relaxed, creative, playful session of family art-making.
The theme “create a tree” was both broad enough to allow for individualistic, diverse, personal expression as well as specific enough to draw out commonalities and shared experience. The variety of materials available (paint, felt-tips, crayons, collage etc.) encouraged the freedom to find or try something comfortable for some, and, for others, to engage wholeheartedly in playful, creative exploration and experimentation. All families immersed themselves in the image-making and the spirit of togetherness and bonding was palpable in the room. Observing parent-child pairs or teams creating together was like seeing special moments of attachment/’attunement’ in action.
It was evident that many of the parents and children have grown to trust and believe in Noah’s Ark so, although the sheer scale of art-making (about 20 families in total, including about 15 wheel chair users) felt somewhat chaotic at times, it also felt contained and safe… it felt rooted/grounded like the trees created. Throughout, there was a sense of community and connectedness which gained visual expression when all the families displayed their trees together on the wall. The result: a rich, colourful forest (autumnal, evergreen and budding/flourishing all at the same time) dense with various emotions and themes (e.g.: the frustration and optimism that comes with change; how important yet hard it is to be strong, sturdy and constant; the need to adapt and grow; special family members and safe places – magical tree houses and caring creatures; the need for hope).
The day felt more about play and process rather than analysis or reflection or interpretation but at the end of the workshop we did invite families to form into a circle to view their creative output and, if they wished, to communicate their take-outs and experiences. Many shared and the children did so with real pride and enjoyment (their parent[s] beaming with mutual pride at their confidence).
It felt overtly fun yet also meaningful and special for all involved. I certainly enjoyed and gained from the experience – it felt like a really honest and real celebration of life in-the-moment, however short-lived it might be.
Georgie Biggs, HCPC reg. art therapist