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AHS Research Overview 2023
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Nurture Our Nature

This thesis examines the importance of embodied belonging and well-being in connection to nature through expressive-arts-based research, qualitative research, phenomenological research, hermeneutic circles research, and auto-ethnographic research. Asserting that it’s the responsibility of the expressive arts practitioner to act as the “pollinator,” the “hummingbird,” to provide these connections for participants. That’s our moral obligation: to bridge between seeing the beauty in the individual and the beauty of the world. In other words, for the ultimate well-being of our participants, nature-relatedness is critical.  And up to this point, this is an essential element missing from our experience as practitioners, we literally don’t have the vocabulary. This paper begins to explore how we can bring that language to life in our work as expressive arts facilitators. As the author shares her personal herstory, examples of nature-based expressive arts workshops she conducted, and a diverse, intersectional array of personal interviews, a reconnection story emerges—connection to self and to the wider community. The author asserts that healthy relationships require intentional tending and connection with the natural world. Her research affirms the imperative today of connecting the imaginal realm of creative thinking, heart-based knowing, and intermodal ways of self-expression, with multidimensional knowing—rather than academic values— to create a more healthy, embodied future for all.

2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: Carrie MacLeod

Student: Karen Knight

E-Mail

Keywords:  • Biophilia • Brave Space • Connection • Ecopoiesis • Embodied • Belonging
• Expressive Arts • Feminine • Intermodal • Nature • Nature Relatedness • Nurture 
• Self Response Ability/Self-Responsibility • Well-Being

Building Beauty Vulnerable Youth Art Hub

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2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: Heather Dawson

Student: Stacey Dallyn

E-Mail

Keywords: Building Beauty Vulnerable Youth Art Hub Fentynal Epidemic Journaling Skateboards Wabi Sabi Nature ,Spray Paint, Jack Simpson, Anime

Does this Pathway have a Heart?

The aim of this thesis is to provide an answer to the following question: How do the Expressive Arts enable women to connect with the body and its creative potential, promoting empowerment and freedom? Female empowerment is crucial for fostering a sense of freedom, as sexist discourses often negatively impact women's self-esteem and identities. The Expressive Arts have the transformative power to connect with the senses and the body, resonating positively in women's lives. This study examines how women are able to find their voices for expressing their pains, joys, dreams, and desires through the arts. To explore how women have empowered and inspired others, I adopted an art-based research methodology, including the analysis of the biographies and artistic productions of three artists: Frida Kahlo, Clarice Lispector, and Ana Carolina de Jesus. Qualitative interviews and one-on-one sessions based on the architecture of an Expressive Arts methodology were also conducted. The research demonstrates the healing power of the arts for women facing poverty and gender discrimination, resulting in transformative experiences in their lives.

2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: Ellen Levine

Student: Phaguianny Estphani Da Silva Soares Teixeira

E-Mail

Keywords: gender, discrimination, racism, poverty, empowerment, identity, female empowerment, creative potential, freedom, self-esteem, body

Night Sea Journey: Possibilities of Expressive Arts Therapy within Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Changsha, China

The purpose of the thesis is to study the possibilities of Expressive Arts Therapy Intervention within child and adolescent psychiatry in Changsha, China. This pilot study crystallized the therapeutic process of ten inpatient group sessions and five individual cases during a year long period in 2021. Groups are mixture of random patients age from 6 to 18 years old (both male and female), ten group sessions happened in the form of open studio that based on Polyaesthetics and duration of each session was 60 to 90 minutes. Five individual cases were referred by doctors and nurses or seek support voluntarily, treatment plans and frequency were adjusted accordingly. The findings show that participants had significant improvement and indicate a bridge between Intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy and Anthroposophic Art Therapy in terms of Menschenbild and pathology.

2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: Ka Kit Lai

Student: Julia Jing Hu

E-Mail

Keywords: Hermeneutic phenomenological research, Art-based research, Case study, Intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy, Child and Adolescent psychiatry

Arts-Based Creativity Approach to Transformative Learning: Awakening Critical Consciousness

Arts-Based Creativity Approach to Transformative Learning: Awakening Critical Consciousness is divided into two parts. Part One: Arts-Based Creativity Approach to Transformative Learning examines the philosophies and ideas of three related fields–liberatory pedagogy, arts in education, and expressive arts–with the intention of braiding the essential concepts together to create a new approach to awaken critical consciousness. In this way, expressive arts philosophies engage and resonate with educators as social change agents. The three fields are mutually enriched by noting their similarities and unique differences crossing borders together in the quest of building a just, humane, and vibrant society. The analytical framework is comprised of related qualitative research methodologies. The primary ones used are Portraiture and Expressive Arts-Based Educational Research (EABR). Both blend aesthetics with a methodical approach to empirical research. In Part One, an Arts-Based Creativity approach is established by weaving together theory to practice and practice to theory. Lessons are extracted from scholars and practitioners, from case studies of creative arts projects in schools, and from a personal journey of fifty years of life experiences in arts and social justice education. Research is enhanced by a personal exploration in collage, poetry, creative non-fiction, and short fiction that respond aesthetically to emerging themes. This multidimensional perspective reinforces the quest to find an effective approach in education that invites students to enter the arts to gain transformational awareness. The critical research practice includes the process of writing, compiling, editing, and piloting Borders to Bridges curriculum and resource materials (Part Two). The contents relate and intertwine in all aspects of Part One as application of theory to practice. The theoretical underpinnings of Borders to Bridges are informed by the collective wisdom of the ninety-seven scholars reviewed in the dissertation and are foundational to the creation of the Arts-Based Creativity approach. Part Two: Borders to Bridges: Creative Activities for Belonging, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Sovereignty, and Justice Education and supplementary materials–Personal Narratives and Poetry, Prose, Short Fiction–build awareness, social-emotional development, and cultural competency to empower all students to reach their potential and embrace new perspectives. This guidebook and supplements, referenced throughout Part One, provide a way to apply and implement the Arts-Based Creativity approach to transformative learning. These materials are designed to promote dialogue in schools and communities with arts-based intermodal lesson plans and resources to enrich learning and engage students with issues that touch their lives and communities. Contributors include world-renowned educators, poets, artists, and writers from 38 countries and 20 states of the U.S. dedicated to sparking connections that build an equitable and hopeful future.

2023: Ph. D. Dissertation

summa cum laude


Advisor: José Miguel Calderon 

Student: Lynn Glixon Ditchfield

E-Mail

Keywords: education, critical consciousness, transformative learning

Finding Intimacy: In Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse

This thesis explores how embodied expressive arts might help survivors of childhood sexual abuse overcome isolation and reconnect to the knowing body, the self, and to others. Embodied expressive arts and somatic awareness are discussed as important foundations for helping clients re-shape the narrative of abuse. The literature review explores the work of trauma experts working in the field. The arts-based qualitative research includes an in-depth case study spanning multiple sessions with a group of clients, examining the relationship between awareness, connection, self-esteem, and intimacy. This inquiry explores and reveals themes such as embodiment, self-care, boundaries, containment, feelings, and love.

2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: 

Student: Traviss White Tara

E-Mail

Keywords: Authenticity, Belonging, Body Awareness, Body Sensation, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Connection, Disassociation, Embodiment, Expressive Arts, Incest, Integration, Intimacy, Joy, Safety, Shame, Trauma, Trust, Vulnerability, and Wholeness

The Space Between

Our interactions and relationships with others and our environment around us, shape the lives we live. This thesis revolves around the exploration of what bringing true awareness to those interactions can do, in support of a better structure of care in an institutionalised setting. The setting here is a care home and the expressive arts were the tools used to guide this qualitative, arts based research to discover how we might create a more relational environment in service of our elders. This study focuses on what it means to feel truly acknowledged by those around you and to be offered the gift of presence. Touching on topics such as the senses, embodiment, play, imagination, and beauty, I look at how the guiding principles of expressive arts could help inform institutions of how a deeper understanding into the cultivation of meaningful connections could offer a radical shift to the culture of a care home. This thesis is a tiny window into a much broader subject that, given the trajectory of humankind, is one that needs to be faced. I hope it offers the reader a chance to reflect upon what it means to grow old and how we can best serve some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

2023: MA Thesis

cum laude


Advisor: Ellen Levine

Student: Claire Baldry

E-Mail

Keywords: relational environment, acknowledgement, presence, embodiment, senses, play, imagination, beauty, institutions, meaningful connections

The Bridge of Connection

My thesis is a body-based arts research deeply informed by two life-altering and life shattering spiritual awakenings in the form of Near-Death Experiences that happened in 1991 and 2001. I have spent the years since then trying to integrate and understand the gifts of remembering that were given to me by my Soul and deeper Essence Self. This thesis is an attempt to bring further embodied knowing from these two Near-Death Experiences, to bring something formless into ‘form‘ through a heuristic body-based arts research. The words of Expressive Arts pioneer Daria Halprin, are my catalyst and starting point: “The entire repertoire of our life experiences can be accessed and activated through the body in movement“ (Daria Halprin, 2003). Using the EXA Architecture of a Session and the heuristic process of Clark Moustakas as a frame to hold my explorations, I will take on the role of the change maker-facilitator, then become the client and later, take on the roles of the Mover, the Scribe, and the Witness, to uncover and discover the truth held in this statement for me.

2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: Barbara Hielscher-Witte 

Student: Karla Beesemyer 

E-Mail

Keywords: Near-Death Experiences, heuristic research, body-based arts research, Tamalpa Life/Art Process, EXA Architecture of a Session, dance, movement, light, matter, Essence, Soul, Personality, remembering, forgetting

The Heart of Resilience Art Expedition: Shifting the Narrative Through the Expressive Arts

Benjamin Swatez takes us on a journey across the globe throughout this thesis, “The Heart of Resilience Art Expedition - Shifting the Narrative Through the Expressive Arts”. Utilizing examples of past projects, from the streets of post-genocide Bosnia in 2005 to the Congo River in 2021, he draws a parallel between Expressive Arts Therapy and his work sharing art classes and directing community murals with people facing severe adversity. Mr. Swatez also explores how Expressive Arts Therapy can serve in the transformation of conflict and peace building efforts in the heat of gunfire. In both field journal entries and post reflections, this thesis investigates how decentering through the act of art-making, poiesis, can expand the imagination and range of play while living in warzones and high-risk environments, ultimately shifting the narrative from victimization to empowerment, where creativity and action work together to enhance quality of life.

2023: Master Thesis 

cum laude


Advisor: José Miguel Calderon 

Student: Benjamin Joseph Swatez

E-Mail

Keywords: Community Murals, Empowerment, Psychosocial Support, Expressive Arts Therapy, Large Scale Art, Street Art, Poiesis, Transformation, Alchemy, War Zone, Catastrophe Zone, Anti-slavery, Former Child Soldiers, Peace Art, Freedom Art, Phenomenology, Symbolism, Third, UNICEF, United Nations, Massacre, Reconciliation, Survivors of Sex Trafficking, Projects, Colors of Love, Tinkuy, Methodology, Art Curriculum, Metamorphosis, Social License to Practice, Colonialism, PTSD, Tunnel Vision, Alchemy, Urban Art, Low-Skill High-Sensitivity, Artist, Modality, Beauty, Healing, Creativity, Expert, Architecture of a Session, Decenter, Harvest, Journey, Heart of Resilience

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