The Meaning Behind Include Me

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In May, The Art Therapy Project will present their Annual Client Art Exhibition, which features artwork made by our clients in their group art therapy sessions. The exhibition is open to the public and serves as a rare opportunity for outsiders to learn more about the impact of art therapy. This spring’s exhibition is titled Include Me, and we spoke with Clinical Director, Lindsay Lederman ATR-BC, LCAT, ATCS to discuss the importance of client art exhibitions.

What inspired the title of this art exhibition, Include Me?

  • Many of our art therapists mentioned that their clients had been discussing feelings around exclusion and not having a voice. Clients continually brought up life experiences impacted by barriers associated with race, gender, sexual identity, and more. When these themes are discussed in session, clients have the opportunity to process their experiences and experiment with new ways of how to manage and cope with them. This often includes using art as a way to express a client’s needs and voices. Include Me is about just this: how you can be heard, how you can make your presence felt, and how you can advocate for yourself and the people you care about.

How does the client art exhibition give a voice to those wanting to share their story?

  • Art exhibitions open the doors for clients interested in showing their work to the public. Clients have previously discussed how validating it is to exhibit in an open space, which welcomes the larger community to come and view their work. Sometimes clients say they want to share their story publicly with the hope that someone might see how art therapy can help in the recovery from trauma. One of the goals of The Art Therapy Project is to try to reduce the shame and stigma around mental health, and we try to address this issue through client art exhibitions.

Art therapy is about the process not the product – does exhibiting a final piece of art work affect this message?

  • The final product serves as a glimpse into a client’s treatment process and reflects a particular issue or feeling a client might be currently exploring. Artist statements are a very important component of the exhibition because they explain the imagery within a context. They explain how the work evolved, where it was coming from, and the process of creating it. The artwork becomes a physical footprint of what happened in treatment and continues to get processed within the group even after the exhibition is over.

What new perspectives about mental health and well-being can a client art exhibition offer the community?

  • Many communities have become more open to the idea of mental health, but I think many still view it as shameful or something that is not openly talked about. We, along with many of our clients, hope that the exhibition can help demonstrate that mental health support is accessible and that addressing one’s challenges does not need to be hidden or ignored. Include Me aims to show that art therapy can support people’s recovery and healing, and that the creative process can promote self-advocacy and change.

Include will be on view from Monday, May 13 through Thursday, May 30 at The School of Visual Arts. Client exhibition viewings are free and open to the public, but by appointment only. Please contact The Art Therapy Project at 212.592.2755 to schedule a time.

Martha Dorn