At lunchtime on October 14, Gail Cantor, Endicott’s Director of Belonging and Spiritual Life, will lead a contemplative walk across the College’s 235-acre oceanfront campus.
Silently drinking in the sea air and the sound of bees buzzing in Endicott’s own hives, participants will be asked to move their bodies without the typical modern demands of trying to solve a particular problem or hit a fitness goal.
“On contemplative walks you allow thoughts to come up and you see if you can let them float away a little bit and give yourself a break,” explained Cantor. “It’s about taking in nature, your breath, and letting things come up without trying to force a resolution.”
The experiential walk is one of many sessions comprising Endicott’s Expressive Therapies Symposium, a conference open to everyone and expected to bring students, artists, and arts-based clinicians together for a full day of conversation, play, and discovery.
Symposium founder and organizer Krystal Demaine, Professor of Expressive Therapies at the College, chose the theme of “contemplative practices” to ground the day—a phrase that felt universally relatable after three years of pandemic living and all its forced isolation and reflection.
“The day is about how we can invite, promote, and build conversations and be more inclusive, not only within our community but through all arts-based modes of expression,” said Demaine.
An immersive experience
Expressive therapies are about using the creative arts as a multimodal form of therapy and incorporating music, the visual arts, movement, drama, writing, and other mediums into wellness and healing. These therapies and techniques are best learned when experienced rather than simply presented in traditional academic settings—so, the symposium will be deeply immersive.
As visitors arrive on October 13, they will come together with the Endicott community at the Spencer Gallery, where symposium presenter Joan Hanley’s solo exhibition, “What’s Going On,” will have its opening reception. Hanley, an artist and creative arts therapist, is based in New Hampshire and her series of candid paintings were conceived during the first months of COVID.
The works examine the new reality of Zoom, cocooning with family, and the question, “How do we navigate intimacy when so much of our experience is through technology?”
The show forms a reflective jumping-off point for the following morning’s keynote workshop by Stan Strickland titled “Expressive Arts in a Time of Uncertainty.” Strickland is an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music and the Co-Executive Director of Express Yourself, a nonprofit based in Beverly that brings creative arts programs to youth in 50 Massachusetts towns, including those in residential and outpatient treatment facilities.
A singer, saxophonist, flutist, and actor, as well, Strickland originally told Demaine, “I don’t want to get up there and just talk.”
Demaine fully agreed. “That’s why this is called a keynote workshop rather than an address,” she said. “I am looking to Stan to get up there and get us moving or singing, making music or art as a way to kick off the morning.”
From there, participants will choose a breakout workshop including “Dance, Paint Write,” with Topaz Weis, a deep dive into “Healing Ways to Work with Images,” offered by the artist Joan Hanley, or “Mindfulness in Action” with early childhood education leadership expert Kaori Hattori de Panepinto.
Replenishing the spirit
Demaine, who just published The Roots & Rhythm of the Heart: Our Musical Connection to Identity, Spirit, and Lineage, believes that getting this immersive hands-on access to practitioners will be invaluable to undergraduate students enrolled in Endicott’s Expressive Arts Therapy Program who are weighing different career tracks and specializations as future registered expressive arts therapists.
In particular, they’ll have the chance to work with alumni Emily Surabian ’18, an art therapist and mixed media artist who is curating an activity titled, “Mindful Stitching.” Participants will take a few quiet moments to choose a textile and thread, hang out, and stitch a square for a community quilt. Music from Pranav Ghatraju will add a bell-like resonance to the reflective time.
Surabian said that her degree at Endicott thoroughly prepared her for a master’s degree in art therapy and creative development at the Pratt Institute and her current role as an art therapist at Express Yourself.
“I found that I was able to get comfortable in my knowledge of the field by being at Endicott because it’s immersive,” she said. “Instead of just learning theories you experience them.”
She’s drawn on those lessons in her impactful work at Express Yourself, where she co-leads the art studio home to more than 400 young people from age six to 21.
She and her colleagues also bring expressive therapies to local pediatric psychiatry units. In a recent work of art, she used collage and thread to represent her recent research on the therapeutic relationship and how it’s been impacted by COVID-19 isolation and telehealth.
Surabian hopes to use the symposium to debrief on these demanding recent years in the field while replenishing attendees’ spirits.
The symposium will close out with a sound bath facilitated by sound healer Lisa Kawski, which sounds like just the trick.
The Endicott Expressive Therapies Symposium will be held on October 14 and is open to the public. Register here.