Recently at the Steps With Theera Vocational Training Centre for Young Adults With Special Needs we hosted several local Thai students with special needs for a week long experience. During their stay I had the pleasure of working with them for two 1 1/2 hr long sessions during which we created creative and expressive self-portraits. The sessions were some what challenging as only one of the students spoke any English but he became my very willing translator for the group and there was a lot of non-verbal communication going on throughout. We honestly had fewer problems with communication than I feared and everyone was very enthusiastic to try anything and take risks.
For the first session we worked with three different mediums for a specified amount of time while listening to music. First the students worked with dry materials such as markers and coloured pencils and focused on using geometric shapes to create patterns. Second, the students used oil pastels and practiced blending them together from dark to light. Third, the students worked with impressionistic brushstrokes using acrylic paints. I also took each student's picture and printed it out for the next session.
During the second session the students glued their printed out photo onto a small cardboard base and then proceeded to rip up their work from the previous session, (shock, horror)! They were a bit confused by the fact that I was asking them to rip up their work but as I began to show them how to reconstruct it all by placing the pieces onto the printed photo, filling in the background, they got into it. To finish it all off they added paint, oil pastel and marker designs and, presto, colourful and expressive self-portraits were the result!
Since getting involved with Steps With Theera Vocational Training Centre through the NIST art auction collaboration I have started teaching art therapy sessions at Steps and have been working with some of the trainees on developing their art skills into money making endeavors as well. I've never taught art therapy sessions before, I have no training other than what I've found online and what I've been able to read recently. To be honest, I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm very thankful that I'm just volunteering at this point because I'm never quite sure that what I'm doing is the 'correct' path.
With all that being said, I'm having a blast with these sessions and the trainees seem to be loving it too. We have been having so much fun getting to know each other through creating and experimenting together. There's no assessment, just support and guided risk-taking; I love it.
So far we have been working on a group Mandala piece in mixed-media. We looked at examples of Mandalas and similar circular designs from various cultures and talked about the significance of the circle as a symbol. Mostly we have been very loose with our designs and have just let the sessions flow and our moods dictate what appears on the board. It's a big project and we are almost finished now. Up next we will try out some sculpture techniques using recycled materials.
I'm starting a huge catch up today on posts. So much has happened since my last entry! The art auction at Steps With Theera happened, it was a huge success and we raised almost 90,000 baht on the night. All of the artwork was purchased and the attendance was heartwarming with many more people than we expected. We are all very pleased with the night and what it has allowed us to do at Steps: develop our wonderful program for the trainees!