The Socially Engaged Artist and the Naropa Community Art Studio (NCAS)
One week after 9/11, the Naropa Community Art Studio within the Art Therapy program was created with the intention of a curriculum-driven cultivation of the socially engaged art therapist. During a studio practicum in the first year, students learn how to design, create and finance a community-based studio.
The guiding vision behind this long-term project has been to provide a safe place for various marginalized members of the Boulder community to gather and create art together. We have tried to attract people who would not have access to a large studio space or direct contact with the humanizing practice of engaging in creative, artistic behavior in community.
Naropa University art therapy faculty and students manage the studio, organizing and running the many ways in which this space can be used. Respect for cultural, ethnic, gender and spiritual diversity has been a founding principal of our work. Unity in diversity, the birthright to pursue creative expression, and the capacity of visual art to contain and communicate the full range of human experiences has been the essence and goal of our mission.
To our knowledge, this is the first graduate program in the United States to attempt such a project. Our studio experiment at Naropa University continues to inspire our professional interests and generate exciting research opportunities. Currently, we have raised over $125,000 in donar and grant money.
See: Franklin, M.; Rothaus, M.; Schpock, K. (2005). "Unity in diversity: Communal pluralism in the art studio and the classroom." In Kaplan, F. (Ed.), Art therapy and social action: Treating the world's wounds. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
In addition to serving the Boulder public, Naropa graduate students will have an opportunity to define, manifest and engage in a new paradigm for community-based service learning and art therapy education.
- To educate Naropa University students, within a service learning format, in legitimate alternative paradigms for studying and practicing art therapy.
- To deepen one’s relationship with the creative process, manifesting the imagination through visual media, and sharing artistic efforts within community.
- To become socially engaged through the practice of serving community through the arts.
- To take studio-based approaches to doing artwork out into the world as an offering of service.
- To develop the many skills needed to define and facilitate studio-based models as a form of viable future employment.
- To cultivate the personal value of service as a spiritual practice.
In January of 2011, a faculty member and 2 art therapy graduate students at the Naropa University began to entertain the idea of taking art therapy to work with social justice organizations abroad. In a matter of a few months these three organized a team of passionate art therapy students, created a sound fundraising plan and joined in partnership with Transitions Global, a non-profit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia that works to support and empower survivors of sex trafficking and Anjali House in Siem Reap that provides education, health care, food and clean drinking water to impoverished children needing support. Naropa Community Art Studio – International was born!
Since then we have been wildly blessed by community support and have currently raised over $40,000 through innovative fundraising and received a $25,000 grant from the Jenzabar Foundation to be distributed over the next three years so we may continue our work with Transitions and Anjali House and broaden our service learning to partner with other organizations in Cambodia as well. We made our first trip to Cambodia in May 2012, with 7 students and 1 faculty and we will be returning in May of 2013 with 11 students and 2 faculty. On this trip we will be extending our service learning to include 4 more organizations! Missionaries of Charity, an orphanage that houses abandoned babies as well babies affected by HIV/Aids, Women's Handicraft and Development Association a cooperative consisting mainly of women and young people from traditional farming families living and working in Cambodia's rural Chamcar Bei village that produces handmade original pieces from local resources as well as using plastics to make recycled products, Chab Dai, a coalition that aims to address human trafficking and exploitation through coalition building, advocacy and research and Raggamuffin, a creative arts center in Phnom Penh committed to the relief of emotional pain and psychological damage in children and adults.
The intention behind this project is for our students to learn about the diverse issues in the Cambodian culture while also offering art therapy as means toward healing. With social justice as a cornerstone of our mission we aim to bring awareness to the many human rights concerns that plague the Cambodian people.
We are so grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from people all over the world in making this a sustainable and mutually beneficial project for all parties involved. It really does take a village...a global one.
NCAS-I expands the boundaries of the Naropa University Community Art Studio from local to global. Rooted in the principle of collaboration and a belief in the innate wisdom, creativity, and interdependence of all, we, the art therapy graduate students and faculty, seek active engagement with social justice organizations around the world. We will use art therapy practices to help relieve suffering and maintain a vision of unity, as guests and learners in the communities we serve.
To learn more about our project please follow us at www.ncasi.wordpress.com
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