Like so many other things in my life, I stumbled upon inspiration through experimentation this week.
Each week in our “Use of Art in Group Therapy” course, students are paired up to lead an experiential ‘light intensity’ art group based on classic art therapy interventions by pioneers in the field. This week was no exception, and I was partnered with my friend and colleague, Brynne, in order to facilitate an activity from Bruce Moon. In Moon’s activity, group members are invited to design the cover of their autobiography. The activity is designed for work with teenagers, as a way of introducing one’s self in group and doing some exploring into the realm of identity.
In an attempt to make the activity more personalized to my cohort, I had drawn prop ‘bookcases’ in order to create an atmosphere like that of a bookshop/cafe. I then encouraged my cohort members to create the titles of books they hope to write, little inside jokes, children’s books, and more; and to write these on the spines of the ‘books’ on the ‘shelves.’
Seeing my cohort interact with the activity, I realized the potential of it as its own intervention – and of the combined potential of the two working in tandem.
So, without further ado, I introduce to you the ‘life’s library’…
- Large sheets of paper
- Drawing or painting materials (felt markers, pencil crayons, chalk pastels, acrylic…)
- Tape or other non-permanent adhesive
- Ruler (optional)
- First, draw a shelf onto each piece of paper – it can be as simple as a straight line in the middle, or as elaborate as a woodgrain.
- Second, draw (or paint! or collage!) the spines of books onto your ‘shelf’. Draw as many or as few as you feel necessary – you and the group can always add more later.
- Using your tape or other temporary adhesive, place your ‘bookshelves’ on the wall in a central location.
- Think radical hospitality! Consider providing coffee, tea, and assorted pastries or snacks, and setting a mood with appropriate music.
- Place felt markers, chalk pastels, and other materials at each seat around your tables.
- Invite the group to imagine the title of any books they would write, now or in the future, and to decorate these books in whatever way they wish using the materials provided.
- To finish, encourage the group to introduce themselves as well as their books to the rest of the group.
Like Moon’s own autobiography activity, this directive could be used as an introduction in a longer group workshop and as a way to experience individual work within a group setting. In particular, it would be interesting to implement this directive in a combined writing/art group. The directive also has potential for working with those experiencing a transition, allowing them to explore their identity; or gain hope, inspiration, and motivation when envisioning their life and future through the written word.
In many ways, this activity is not unlike a vision board – allowing for a visual representation of what passions, inspirations, and dreams a person holds near and dear; bringing them to life before their very eyes.