It is my pleasure to introduce you to Victoria Van Zandt - a vivid and creative art therapist and LMFT in Los Angeles USA. Victoria works primarily with women and she finds art making to be powerful tool in helping women to explore the critical and judgmental voices that can create inner conflict.
You can read about Victoria's beautiful art program HERE.
At the end of Victoria's essay, she raises a pivotal point that many art facilitators express to me:
Victoria shares, "One of the things that is challenging for me is deciding whether or not to increase the fee I charge for my workshops. I buy all the supplies and give a donation to the adult center I use. I have a conflict about building my business and giving back to the community."
I think that this a dilemma for many of us who are independently facilitating art programs. We love what we do, and we want to keep doing it. And - we would like a financial return for our efforts - but how? I remember saying to my partner many years ago, "I don't know how I am going to make it financially! All I know how to do is run art programs!"
My first art facilitation job was a grass roots art program that I started for my local health authority for adults with acquired brain injuries. In the beginning, I facilitated my art program around a dining room table in a group home, and I was eventually given funding to open up a dedicated art studio when the program proved to be a success.
I also set up temporary studios around the city in community centers, care homes, and art supply stores. I was way beyond excited about my art facilitation work but I had a hard time making ends meet. I pieced together small contracts, and with love bursting from my heart, I toted my art supply boxes all over the city - until I got weary from the lack of financial return.
In the early days, before I got my full-time job facilitating art in healthcare, I spent way more time on my art programs than I was ever paid for. I would stay up reading and planning the night before, trying out all of my art directives on myself first. I traveled all over the city, looking for innovative art supplies. I was consumed with passion, love, and interest for my art facilitation craft.
Many people write me with a personal vision about how to bring creative expression to others but are unsure how to be recognized and paid for what they do. And, after 10 years of dedicated art facilitation with various populations and health authorities, I have some thoughts...
8 Tips for Creating Your Own Art Program
"Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you're passionate about something, then you're more willing to take risks." ~ Yo-Yo Ma
1. Stay with your vision - Artists, therapists, healers, and visionaries see things before they show up in our consensus reality. To have visions that we do not see mirrored in our outer reality is often challenging. We can give up before we really begin.
2. The creation of "the new" takes time. I have spent a great deal of time "living into my visions" and they often took years to "out-picture." However, sometimes when I was really passionate, confirmations of my creative ideas would show up within days or weeks. I remember going for long walks, and powerfully "vibrating" with how I wanted to give to life, envisioning the kinds of people I wanted to work with, and the art courses and programs I wanted to facilitate.
3. If you are passionate, "a way" will be made. If you want something with all of your heart, it is possible to "over-ride" consensus reality and find a "foot into" a door that you could have never conceived of in your ordinary mind. When we horizontally look out into our consensus reality - we see with our "limited" human eyes. When we look "up" to our higher visions, we bring new creations into life.
4. Volunteer in the beginning. When you facilitate art programs for free - photograph everything you do, log your client progress, build your portfolio, write about what you are learning, and become an "expert" in your own "style" of art facilitation.
5. Understand and communicate what you do. Once you discover your creative gifts, communicate what you do to others so that you can begin earning money. What moves me the most, is everyone I meet has their own way of facilitating expressive art, writing or movement. To honor your facilitation style fully - to know - and be able to describe what you uniquely do and give - is a prime directive for success. Promote your originality.
6. ENVISION yourself being paid. And, keep in mind, that sometimes the way we expect to be paid is different than how we will be paid. Building expressive art programs in community and healthcare is still a pioneering activity in our society, and may not always translate directly to getting highly paid in a direct way. Resources, support, and financial returns may come from entire areas of life to fund your heart-filled expressions. I found that my efforts were sometimes compensated in unusual ways, and at surprising times. Be flexible about where your money comes from.
8. Respect your offering. I understood that, as an artist, I needed to learn my expressive art practices and facilitation methods experientially - from inside of my personal experiences. Others may feel the need to be academically trained first. It took me a long time to "land" in full self-respect for my unique facilitation style. With such burgeoning self-respect, my art programs began to prosper.
A Process of Refinement
Living into our higher creative visions involves a process of inner character refinement that involves looking beneath the "jostling" for stature, credentials, and experience, and into our own hearts for what we uniquely have to offer. Refining our authentic offerings and sharing them with others is what we are all here to do.
There is a collective of us in the world that are championing the healing powers of authentic creative expression. And, whether we come to art facilitation intuitively, experientially or academically, we are all seeing, feeling and sensing into our shared desire to facilitate art and healing, and we deserve to prosper in what we do.
This article series is part of an online "friendship initiative" called "Art Programs Around the World." I warmly invite you to share the interesting things you are discovering while running your own art program! You can submit your photos and answers to the 10 questions HERE.