ARTIST TALK/PRESENTATION 2022 – ‘THE POWER OF EXPRESSIVE ART THERAPY’ – Sharing with others about my journey over a 15-year life span
Once more I had the incredible opportunity to present and this time about ‘The Healing Power of Expressive Art Therapy’ – about my journey with road trauma, grief, loss, healing, and post-traumatic growth using painting, storytelling/blogging, motivational speaking, and photography. I talked about my time with Road Trauma Support Services (now known as Amber Community), about how the volunteering and paid work I did with the organisation over a 10-year period had a close relationship with my journey with expressive art therapy which spanned over a 15-year period. About how one endeavour enabled and supported the other and still does to this day through my photography adventures with my family.
The feedback from audience members on the day was astounding for me. I found it reassuring and pleasing knowing that sharing my experience with these people helped them understand that there is much healing power in bringing some form of creative endeavour into one’s life. Some said it was inspiring, others stated they didn’t realise how helpful expressive art and creative writing group therapy could be for an individual, and some said it gave them much to think about their existing thoughts in reference to self-care, especially for volunteer speakers who engage in the art of storytelling of their personal life experience with road trauma (another form of expressive art therapy), and others said it was interesting to hear about a person’s long term journey and how it helped them come from utter despair to a place where they found joy in every day and learning to ‘tick the happy box’ where ever possible!
Many to thank and much to be thankful for! A Special thank you to the following people: Chris Harrison – Amber Community’s Manager for Education for your support and the opportunity to present. To Gillian Scaduto for your ongoing support and friendship over these years with Amber Community and words of encouragement on the day. To my sweet daughter for providing tech support and for the use of her equipment, and for spending time with me running through the presentation on location to ensure all went well on the day I presented. To my dear husband who supports me by listening to my thoughts, driving to and from the location, and helping to set up and the packing up the equipment and props on the day. And to the wonderful people of Amber Community for listening, for your encouraging feedback and for spending time with Mark and me after the presentation sharing your thoughts – it meant a lot to me and my family.
ARTIST TALK/PRESENTATION 2019 – ‘TAC ARTIST TALK – ROAD TRAUMA‘
Late last year 2018, I offered the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) a series of 7 (is actually now 9 ) paintings I had done about my road trauma experience and about my grieving process. About how painting for myself, group art therapy, creative writing and volunteer speaking played a major role in helping me improve my sense of wellbeing. How it gave me meaning and purpose in my life. Earlier this year 2019, Stephanie Wood of TAC Geelong whom I have known since 2010 when I first exhibited some of my paintings at TAC’s ‘Picture This Exhibition – Melbourne’ – asked if I would like to do an Artist Talk. Stephanie also asked if I wouldn’t mind speaking about the volunteer speaking I had done for the first 5 years with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV) and about the paid work I now undertake with the organisation. I was pleased to agree and grateful for such an opportunity! The presentation also included a live broadcast to TAC staff at their Melbourne Office as well. Afterwards, I did a short podcast with Stephanie about the presentation on the day that could be viewed by staff members who were unable to attend and may be interested in viewing the PowerPoint Presentation and listening to the podcast at their leisure.
NB: Please click here to read the comprehensive blog I wrote which is inclusive of photographs taken on the day, photographs of the paintings mentioned and the presentation PowerPoint slides and wording content presented.
ARTIST TALK 2015 – ‘MAKE A DAY IN HUME’
Recently I received an email from a woman named Sheena Mathieson, an artist/facilitator with Banksia Gardens Community Services who had taken a group of young people with disabilities living in the City of Hume and beyond, to my solo exhibition and said that they all very much had enjoyed my artwork. In her email, Sheena asked if I would be interested in giving an artist’s talk about my ‘art for therapy‘ journey to ‘Make a Day in Hume’ at Banksia Gardens Community Services, Broadmeadows (Melbourne – Australia) and my answer was yes. I had not given an artist talk before, so it was a first for me and I asked Sheena if she could just give me an indication as to the audience’s composition. Sheena indicated that the group of young people consisted of mainly intellectually disabled, some mild, some less so and were between the ages of 17 to 24 years old and there would be approximately 8 to 10 in the group, plus some older carers. The time frame I was given to work within was approximately 30 minutes but as it turned out, we ended up taking up the whole session time of 2 hours – which was wonderful.
ABOUT ‘MAKE A DAY IN HUME’
Make a Day in Hume – “is a magic community-based program of facilitated, inclusive, social, fun and stimulating art-related activities for young people with disabilities living in the City of Hume and beyond’ (Banksia Gardens Community Services 2013). This program is designed to offer participants avenues to be creative and helps to foster their independence through self-development by learning new skills. ‘Make a Day in Hume’ regularly invites groups/individuals to socially interact with the group as a way to expand their ability to be socially connected with the wider community and consists of:- Creation of art; sessions with artists; outings on foot, public transport and/or by bus to visit exhibitions and places of interest; view public art and cultural sites; experience other artist’s studios; purchase art materials and socialize, and exhibition and sale of works (Banksia Gardens Community Services 2013). It was a real thrill to have received this invitation to give an artist talk through ‘Make a Day in Hume’ to this wonderful group of young people, their carers and their facilitator Sheena Mathieson.
MY ARTIST TALK POWERPOINT PRESENTATION
For my artist talk, I decided to put together a PowerPoint presentation that consisted of a movie called ‘Using Art For Therapy’ which was made in March 2013 when TAC interview me about my art practices and how I use/used art as a form of therapy, especially after the death of my son, killed in a single vehicle car crash 5th November 2009.
The presentation also included PowerPoint Slides featuring artwork from 2008 through to 2015 and are shown here below –
Included in my artist talk presentation was a show of art materials that I use during the production of my abstract paintings. I also brought along my hardcopy abstract painting portfolio which was of great interest to the group of young people. Many took the time to look and asked questions about some of the artwork that they were particularly interested in.
GIFT OF APPRECIATION FROM THE GROUP
At the end of my artist talk presentation, I was given a thank you card signed by all and gifts which had been made by members of the group of young people. This I found such a thoughtful act of appreciation.
It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to share my ‘art for therapy‘ journey with this particular group of young people. They were very attentive and interested in what I had to share. I loved the questions they asked and the comments they made about my art. I particularly enjoyed the conversations with individuals as they shared their artwork with me. Sheena Mathieson, the group’s facilitator and the young people’s carers are such dedicated individuals and inspiring Hume community members. Thank you all…
Written by © Karen Robinson, August 2015
ARTIST TALK 2016 – ‘OUR VOICE, OUR CHOICE’
In June -2016 I had the incredible opportunity to be a volunteer speaker at Mind Australia‘s Melbourne 2016 Conference at the M.C.G Olympic Room. Gerry Naughtin, Mind’s CEO stated that it was their largest attendance to date with just over 400 Mind community members being – clients, carers, staff and volunteers. The aim of the conference was to get together to connect with each other and celebrate Mind’s achievements.
MIND AUSTRALIA’S MELBOURNE CONFERENCE 2016 SLIDESHOW
MIND AUSTRALIA’S COMMUNITY CONFERENCE MCC Program 2016 PDF
MY SPEAKING SESSION – ‘WHEN WORDS ARE HARD TO FIND’
My speaker session was scheduled for mid-afternoon which was based on my journey using/attending Mind Australia’s Art & Creative Writing Therapy Groups and how it helped me, to find and give me a voice; and how it helped improve my sense of well-being in order to help my family during their post-traumatic growth. It was titled ‘When words are hard to find’.
THE ACTUAL POWERPOINT PRESENTATION ITSELF – Written and presented by me – Karen Robinson
- Introduction Slide:
Good afternoon, my name is Karen Robinson – and I am here this afternoon to talk about my experience with Mind Australia’s Art and Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions for Carers – as a participant. To talk about how it has helped me, through a very difficult time in my life, when being able to talk about just that – my life, as it was – was incredibly difficult; there just didn’t seem to be any words that could describe what I was experiencing at the time.
- Consecutive Family Crises Slide:
In November 2007, I resigned from a senior management position – with the thought in mind that I would take some time out to reassess my life and go back to work after a twelve-month break. I had been experiencing anxiety and panic attacks for many years, and I had reached the point where I knew a had to make a change in my life. This was a radical move for me, a decision I had given much consideration, and required a degree of courage. Little did I understand at the time that my life was about to take a dramatic turn due to a sequence of events that followed, that I had no control over.
In November 2008, just as I was ready to go back to work, my husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma, which was followed by 3 months of chemotherapy. I become his full-time carer for two years on-wards until he was strong enough – physically at least, to manage his daily life – but he still struggled daily with depression and bouts of poor health. Please note my husband has recovered well some 7 years on now and is thankfully here with me today.
In November 2009 our son Ben at the age of 25 was killed instantly in a single vehicle car crash, on a straight stretch of country road, at approximately 2am. So it was at this time in my life that I found myself grieving the tragic loss of my only son. I was also once again, desperately worried about my daughter and mostly about my husband’s state of physical and mental health, let alone my own well-being. These consecutive family crises – had weakened my overall resolve. There seemed to be little left of me, to build on – in order that I could look after myself, let alone be effective care for my husband, or even worry about my dear daughter and what she must have been experiencing. I struggled from day-to-day in being able to find some measure of joy, and looking forward to the future – seemed futile.
- About Using Art for Therapy Video Slide:
This video was produced by TAC as a CLIENT VIDEO featuring myself, talking about using Art for Therapy for TAC’s 2010 ‘Picture This’ Exhibition for people who like myself had been somehow affected by road trauma. And I hope it will give you some insight into why and how I was using art for therapy to help me through a particularly difficult time, after the loss of my son Ben.
- The Catalyst for Positive Change Slide:
At the beginning of 2011 – I had to either find employment or take up studying. I still felt like a shattered person and the thought of facing the real world – through work, just seemed incredibly daunting for me at the time. I decided to take on the studying options. During this same period of time, I was doing volunteer speaking at RTSSV’s Road Trauma Awareness Seminars to repeat road traffic offenders – about my family’s road trauma on a monthly basis and still do today. So I thought to help me better understand more about the criminal justice system I decided to study full-time for an ‘Advanced Diploma of Justice” which I completed in mid-2013. But even at the end of this process, where I should have been feeling most satisfied and I did to some degree, I still was not feeling right, there was still this big hole in my heart – I was still struggling and it felt like it was never going to end!
The catalyst for my positive change – came about for me In 2014. I started attending Mind’s Art Therapy – Group Sessions, and in 2015 I joined the Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions, as well. During the attendance of these therapy groups, I found myself gaining a deeper understanding of myself; and it also gave me an incredible insight into the lives of others, who were also responsible for looking after a loved one – experiencing mental health issues. These insights have been the catalyst for the change I needed to make in my life, in order that I could be a better – healthier me! And in order that I was – better able to care for, and support, my loved ones through their personal post-traumatic growth.
One day in November 2014, after one of our Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions – I had an epiphany! On this day I found myself, asking myself two profound questions: “why am I not feeling any sense of joy on any day?” – “Is this how I am going to feel for the rest of my life?”. That’s all it took for me to undertake further conscious positive change that really worked for me! I decided that I just needed to consciously look for some small measure of joy in each day. To my surprise, once I started consciously looking for one measure of joy, it became easier to look for another and then another, and I called this process ‘Ticking the Happy Box’.
And even today, a year and a half on from that moment, if I find myself struggling, I say to myself “Karen what’s going to tick the happy box today”! This epiphany came about from one of the things I had learned during Art and Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions which was – that taking time out to think about oneself was a good thing, that it can help with one’s own sense of well-being, and that caring for the carer is critical for a good outcome, for all those in their lives. It’s been a good outcome for my family.
- What I Learned Slide:
As just stated – what I have learned through Mind’s Art and Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions during this period from 2014 to now is this – helping the carer to care for themselves is critical. It’s a bit like that story that is told about how when you are on a plane, that has gone into an emergency situation, the oxygen mask drops down from the plane’s ceiling in front of you, and you are told to first place the life-saving oxygen mask on yourself – before trying to assist another. Well, it’s the same for carers – they need to help themselves as well so that they can help a loved one, who is in desperate need – of their carer’s support.
I experienced and witnessed myself – during our Art and Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions, just how important it was to create a time, a sense of space for ourselves as carers and away from the daily grind of caring so that we can look after ourselves firstly, even if it was just for a very small amount of time. These Art and Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions gave us an opportunity to meet new like-minded people and to share with honesty and frankness – deeply profound thoughts and emotions about our daily life experiences; within a safe, supportive, imaginative and creative environment. At times these therapy sessions would reveal pain, tragedy, sorrow, joy and laughter. I also found the sessions to be interesting, challenging and enlightening and an amazing way to learn about one’s self; and about others who were experiencing similar carer lives. It’s important to state at this point – that the Art and Creative Writing Facilitators were an intrinsic part of the success of these therapy groups, and therefore significantly impacting on the success of the participant’s experiences.
- Conclusion Slide:
In conclusion, it has been an interesting and sometimes challenging undertaking, being part of these Art and Creative Writing – Therapy Groups; but one that I have gained so much from, and I am most grateful for having had the opportunity of being part of them.
It has improved my sense of well-being for sure; allowed me to connect with an amazing group of people, whom I have grown to admire, who have shown me kindness and respect; and given me an insight into how resilient we can be.
Mind’s – Art and Creative Writing Therapy – Group Sessions for Carers, in my opinion, are a wonderful way for people to be able to do just this – feel free to explore what makes them tick amongst like-minded people; to get us thinking about what is truly going on in our lives, and to educate us through self-exploration about how to make positive changes in our lives through the prisms’ of Art and Creative Writing Therapy Groups Sessions.
- What are your questions for me? Slide:
Thank you … what are your questions for me?
After my presentation, I was impressed with how many people came up to me and told me about their stories and how art & creative writing had helped them or they asked how could they become involved with Mind’s art & creative writing groups. It was a very positive experience and definitively ‘ticked the happy box’!
© Karen Robinson – June 2016