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Creative Warriors in the community

From Model Ts to Motown, Detroit has a rich history of visionary thinking — and at Wayne State University, we embrace the opportunity to explore different ideas through creative, outside-of-the-box approaches. Passionate about sharing their talents with others, Warriors are enriching communities and fostering artistic expression in a variety of ways.

Wellness through artistic expression

The gift of growth

Fall marks the 25th anniversary of the Saturday art therapy workshop, an annual program that was originally created and facilitated by Wayne State’s Art Therapy Program Associate Professor and Coordinator Holly Feen-Calligan, Ph.D., A.T.R.-BC.

The Saturday art therapy workshop is a practicum class for graduate art therapy students who design and facilitate weekly art therapy sessions for adults and children. The 90-minute workshop runs for 10 consecutive weeks during the fall semester, with a goal of enhancing creativity, self-expression, and personal growth among participants based on individual strengths, needs and goals.

We had an amazing group that encouraged each other to speak about the artwork they were creating and feelings in response their artistic process.

Corryn Jackson

For art therapy and counseling graduate student Corryn Jackson, the Saturday workshop offered invaluable hands-on experience. “I conducted one session working in the Awesome Autism group and the next nine sessions working with three other classmates with a group of 11 adults,” she recalls. “We had an amazing group that encouraged each other to speak about the artwork they were creating and feelings in response their artistic process. There was an intense connection between our group members in addition to each of the student art therapists.”

Indeed, it’s a win-win for all parties, according to Elsie Sofia Aquino, a Ph.D. candidate in curriculum and instruction. “My experience in the workshops has been healing my inner-child,” she says. “It’s been a very, very, very important journey for me. I’ve had one-on-one therapy with the students, and through this work I have really taken a big leap in not only my personal self, but my career and relationships.”

Emotional rescue

Researchers at Wayne State School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences have teamed with Samaritas, the largest refugee resettlement organization in the state (and fourth-largest in the nation), to pilot three creativity-based behavioral interventions for Syrian refugees living in metro Detroit.

As the state with the second-highest acceptance of Syrian refugees, and ranking in the top 10 overall in the United States for accepting refugees worldwide, these programs are necessary.

Lana Grasser

Based at WSU’s Tolan Park Medical Office Building, the 10-week program incorporates art, movement and mindful yoga to help refugee mothers and children work through the emotions from their journey and any accompanying traumas. Among the weekly 90-minute sessions is a dance class for children ages 7-12, art therapy for adolescents ages 13-17, and yoga for women 18 and older. Samaritas provides transportation for participants.

Organizers have designed this project to offer women and children relaxation and social support while reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, notes Lana Grasser, a Translational Neuroscience Program graduate student who teaches the dance portion of the program. “As the state with the second-highest acceptance of Syrian refugees, and ranking in the top 10 overall in the United States for accepting refugees worldwide, these programs are certainly necessary for this community,” she says.

WSU art therapist Holly Feen-Calligan, Ph.D., and Blue Moon Wild yoga studio owner and instructor Nicole Teufel teach additional classes.

Helping more Detroiters become artists

Making moves

For some students, this is the only art education they may be getting.

Shelbie Wright

The mobile arts workshop is an annual collaboration between Wayne State’s James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, The Carr Center, and Detroit Parks and Recreation. At each workshop, College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts students like Shelbie Wright guide participants between the ages of 12 and 18 as they learn about abstract art and 3-D design fundamentals through sculptural and digital processes.

“A lot of the students we reach out to do not have regular art programs at their schools,” observes Wright, who works with participants during each workshop and answers questions as they create. “In fact, for some, this is the only art education they may be getting.”

Using reclaimed materials provided by the Department of Art and Art History, the pieces created at each of the workshops will be exhibited in the Art Department Gallery.

Although each workshop is different, Wright sees a shared excitement among student participants. “Many are in awe over their creations as well as their ability to make something,” she says. “We often encounter students who are shy to the arts and don’t know how to approach the process of making — some even believe that they are not creative at all — but by the end of our session, they are very excited to share what they have made.”

A smooth start

In 2007, Wayne State’s Department of Music launched a long-term partnership with the Detroit Jazz Festival. One result of this collaboration is J.C. Heard JazzWeek@Wayne, a weeklong jazz intensive for outstanding high school students that is generously supported by the J.C. Heard family.

With a curriculum that features formal academic discipline while paying homage to Heard’s legacy as a drummer, this program redefines the summer music camp concept to teach students jazz improvisation, theory and ensemble playing.

J.C. Heard JazzWeek@Wayne redefines the summer music camp concept to teach students jazz improvisation, theory and ensemble playing.

J.C. Heard JazzWeek@Wayne assembles a diverse group of high school students from urban, rural and suburban settings. Through a competitive audition, 40 students are selected for the free program. These students are then guided by WSU’s jazz faculty, guest artists from the Detroit community, and national artists and educators sponsored by the Detroit Jazz Festival as they work in master class settings, jam sessions, and small and large ensemble rehearsals.

J.C. Heard JazzWeek@Wayne has benefited from 100 percent attendance each year, significant numbers of returning students and a reputation for excellence throughout Southeast Michigan. The program’s positive impact is evidenced further by scholarships offered to participants who choose to continue their jazz education at the university level.

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Bringing stories to life

My role was dissecting a story and creating something new that was a positive message for elementary audiences.

Assata Haki

Performance/Exchange is a free artist-in-residence program that creates interactive learning experiences for kids in K-6 classrooms. Each fall, theatre students in Wayne State’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts train as teaching artists, and in the winter they begin working in classrooms throughout metro Detroit.

Teaching artists use drama and storytelling to entertain young audiences, engaging them in problem-solving related to the ethical dilemmas presented by each story. Performances take place inside individual classrooms, with staff developing lessons that meet each teacher’s unique learning objectives in subjects like language arts, math and social studies.

Assata Haki, who is earning her M.A. in teaching artistry (theatre and dance) at Wayne State, auditioned as an actor for Performance/Exchange in fall 2012 and continued in the program through winter 2013. “My role was dissecting a story and creating something new from it that was a positive message for elementary audiences,” she explains. “From this program, I was able to take with me new avenues to explore creatively, tapping into deeper levels of my creativity.”

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