arts   |   coronavirus

Eskenazi Museum of Art sustains group art therapy sessions through Zoom



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An art therapy room sits empty inside the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art. The museum is offering virtual group art therapy in place of in-person sessions after the museum was closed to the public on March 10. Courtesy Photo

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art is offering virtual group art therapy in place of its typical in-person sessions after the museum was closed to the public on March 10.

Sessions are 1-2:30 p.m. April 16 and 23 over Zoom. The link can be found on the calendar on the museum website. It is free and open to anyone.

The museum has already offered two online sessions in the past two weeks, but group art therapy has been in place since the museum reopened in November.

Heidi Davis-Soylu, director of education at Eskenazi, said the staff realized art therapy was one of the first things they could do online in response to the museum closure. 

At the sessions, attendees participate in art projects together. 

Lauren Daugherty, arts-based wellness experience manager and art therapist, leads the sessions. She said she is the first full-time art therapist hired by a university museum.

Daugherty asks participants to bring whatever art materials they have at home.

Davis-Soylu said people used tools such as sketchbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, blocks and watercolor paints.She said asking participants to use materials from home is a constraint, since participants would usually have access to multiple materials in the Eskanazi studio.

Daugherty said they can make whatever they want, or she gives a prompt to follow. It depends on her goals for the session.

Davis-Soylu attended the first online session April 2.

“It was really interesting to see how we can connect in this new virtual space with people we don’t know at all and how the arts kind of help facilitate that,” Davis-Soylu said.

Davis-Soylu said the first prompt was to make something with a repeating pattern.

“Each person there was giving themselves a moment to slow down and do a little bit of self-care,” Soylu said. “It makes a big impact.”

Daugherty said she hopes it offers a place away from the negative news about COVID-19.

“I hope this brings a time where we can come together as a group — students, community members, whoever — and just do something that’s wellness-related, that’s art-related and that has absolutely nothing to do with talking about the coronavirus,” Daugherty said.

One benefit of virtual sessions is that people outside the Bloomington community can attend, Soylu said. She said the museum staff wants to be leaders in the field of art therapy and create a community surrounding it by offering it to as many people as possible.

“We know there’s a need out there,” she said. “We definitely are open to whoever finds us.”

Daugherty said she plans to continue the sessions, either in-person if the museum can open or online.

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