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Stories | 11.30.18

Art Therapy Student Shares How Artwork Can Promote Violence Prevention

Lauren Daniels

In her second year at Adler University, Chicago Campus student Lauren Daniels is exploring the many themes and uses of art therapy, including its role in helping people cope with tragedies and in encouraging violence prevention. She, along with several of her fellow Master of Arts in Counseling: Art Therapy students, attended the Art in Response to Violence Conference at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago on October 11-12. The event focused on how art and the art-making process can be awakening, educating, and healing. We talked to Daniels about the power of art to shed light on violence and about her plans to help people heal through art therapy.

Q. What was your impression of the conference?

A. The Art in Response to Violence Conference was both informative and inspiring. My favorite part was the presentation called “A Transpacific Feminist Fairytale- Okinawa Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos” by Laura Kina. She exposed us to a culture and history that a lot of us never knew about, which was really eye-opening.

Q. Why do you think the theme of art in response to violence is important?

A. I think it is important because violence isn’t a topic many people talk about, or even realize how big of a problem it is. When you represent violence through artwork, it makes the issue much more real and tangible. It is important that we as a society recognize violence as a pressing issue and get inspired to fight for prevention.

It can be uncomfortable to see this kind of artwork. For example, the “Faces Not Forgotten” project Christine Ilewski-Huelann displayed at the conference creates realistic portraits of children killed from gun violence around the country. The eyes of these children staring back at you puts faces to names and the overwhelming amount of portraits on the quilts forces you to acknowledge how many lives are truly lost. It makes it seem much more real and alarming when artwork is used to portray the effects of violence.

Artwork is also used as a healing process and can help families who have lost loved ones to violence heal and cope with their grief and loss.

Q. Why did you decide to study art therapy?

A. I’ve been an artist my entire life, and I was always very interested in my psychology courses in high school. When I discovered art therapy existed, I was so excited to combine my love for art and my interest in psychology and turn that into a career that can help people. I believe in sharing the talents you were given with others, so I couldn’t think of a more perfect career path for me. My medium of choice is oil paint, and I enjoy painting realistic portraits capturing emotions on canvas through facial expressions and color schemes.

I have an extensive background in a plethora of artistic mediums, so I always encourage my clients to push their boundaries and explore mediums they haven’t tried before. My goal is to help them gain insight into themselves and discover meanings from their compositions through artistic exploration.

Q. What do you plan to do after graduation?

A. After graduation, I plan to continue my training to become a licensed clinical professional counselor and a registered art therapist. I would ideally love to work in a hospital setting, and eventually I plan to take what I’ve learned about art therapy and social change from my experiences in Chicago back home to Michigan and practice there.

Q. What attracted you to Adler University?

A. I’m drawn to small communities where it’s possible to make meaningful connections and relationships with professionals and colleagues. This is what attracted me to Adler University. I knew it would feel like I had joined a new family once I became a student, and I’m happy to say I was right. The unconditional support I’ve received from the faculty and students is incredible. It’s such an important aspect of school and makes all the difference in the success of an individual.

View some of Daniels’ artwork that focuses on the theme of art in response to violence:

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