Providing Therapy Within A Crisis: How Art Therapy Studio Worked to Meet Its Artists “Where They Are”

With support from Blick Art Materials’ Cleveland Heights store, Art Therapy Studios staff prepares kits to offer clients
Distance Art Therapy Services.

Just days into the country’s COVID-19 crisis, as Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton began transitioning from their respective State roles into our living rooms, Art Therapy Studio, the oldest art therapy program of its kind in the country, began its own transition: one that aimed to serve its audiences by providing Distance Art Therapy to its artists.

“We met with our Board to assess the situation,” stated Michelle Epps, executive director of Art Therapy Studio. “We knew the individuals we work with, as well as our community partner sites, needed our services.”

The organization decided that the right solution was to develop its Distance Art Therapy Services: a three-tiered approach to reach its existing audiences, for free, during the duration of COVID-19. This included individuals who participate in its Community Art Therapy Programming, its community partner sites, as well as its followers on social media. Those who registered continued to receive services, remotely, working with therapists one-on-one or in small group settings, via Microsoft Teams. Those without the necessary devices called in and spoke with their art therapist, who audibly walked them through tasks.

The organization knew getting supplies to the artists would be challenging, as many of its guests rely on the organization to provide art supplies. Cleveland Heights’ Blick Art Materials stepped in and graciously donated 100 art kits. The organization then raised funds to ship the kits to each artist.

The second focus was on the community, particularly those who follow the organization on social media. “This was a priority as many within the community face increased anxiety during a crisis, especially one of this magnitude,” stated Epps. “So we developed weekly art tasks on our Facebook page where the community can participate by using household items.”

The final tier was working to reach new audiences, knowing that this crisis may shape how the organization provides art therapy services going forward. “We have all heard that the fallout from COVID-19 will be the new normal,” stated Epps. “We want to be proactive in our approach, knowing that many of our artists may not be comfortable returning to a group or studio setting.” Epps added, “Having these programs in place, we can meet our artists where they are, even if that environment is their home, for the time being.”

Art Therapy Studio

12200 Fairhill Road

Cleveland, Ohio 44120