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Alyssa Kulak

Art Therapy and Art Outreach: Exploring the Unique Contributions of Art Therapists to Non-Profit Community Art Centers

        The mission of many non-profit art centers is to support and encourage the creation of art within the community.  These local art centers typically offer fine art classes, professional art exhibits, and art outreach programs as part of their commitment to supporting the arts within the community.

             Facilitators of art outreach programs often propose that the availability of art to all members of the community, particularly those who would not normally have access to it, will ultimately enhance the lives of the recipients.  Similarly, art therapists believe that “the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing” (http://www.arttherapy.org).  These shared values suggest that art therapy and art outreach might naturally be compatible, yet, much of the art outreach programming at non-profit art centers throughout the Chicago-land area is being facilitated by artists or art educators rather than art therapists.  Art center administrators may even deny that what they are doing through their art outreach programs is therapeutic in its intentions, even though their program descriptions appear to be built upon a therapeutic framework.

         The goal of this thesis project was to investigate the unique skills and knowledge an art therapist has to offer a non-profit art center in terms of its art outreach programming.  Information was gathered through interviews with both art therapist and non-art therapist outreach facilitators at local art centers.  The information was utilized to consider how art outreach services might be different if art therapists were involved in developing and facilitating these programs.


           Alyssa Kulak graduated in 2001 from DePaul University with a BA in English and Women’s Studies. At SAIC, she served as an art therapy intern at Lieberman Geriatric Health Center and at Jose de Diego Community Academy.  Alyssa is also an art instructor and the Program Coordinator at the Brickton Art Center in Park Ridge, Illinois.


Thesis Advisor: Catherine Moon, Assistant Professor, Art Therapy

Thesis Reader: Suellen Semekoski, Adjunct Associate Professor, Art Therapy




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