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Art For More Than Art’s Sake

from the San Jose Mercury News

Fisher: The art of therapy

By Patty Fisher
Mercury News

It seemed like a typical art show opening. Happy people mingling and snacking on cheese and strawberries, scrutinizing each painting and piece of sculpture. Proud artists interpreting their work and explaining their creative processes to admiring family and friends.

But the Spring Art Gallery show at the Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto is special. The young artists all struggle with emotional or social disabilities. The nearly 200 paintings, photographs and sculptures were created in art therapy sessions at the Health Council’s Esther B. Clark School, where children ages 8-16 who have trouble coping in public schools receive intensive help from teachers and therapists.

In the 1950s, when pediatrician Esther Clark founded CHC, disabled children were often taken from their families and treated behind the walls of institutions. The stigma of mental illness and the lack of nearby treatment left distraught parents little choice. Clark wanted to create a setting where kids could live at home and parents could participate in the therapy.

Over the years, the school has worked wonders for children battling conditions from social anxiety to autism and bipolar disorder, teaching them to cope well enough to return to public school and be successful.

CHC has always protected the privacy of children and their families, which is why I was surprised when Anne Moses, the new executive director, invited me to the opening of the art show. We agreed to print only the students’ first names, but I still expected the kids and their folks to be shy with me.

Not a bit.


[ click to read full article at SJMerc ]

Posted on June 17, 2008 by Editor

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