“Promoting the use of art and creativity to facilitate personal well-being.”

Reflections on Summer School, 2013

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Plan, Present, Participate:
Reflections on Summer School, 2013

By: Jaime Creeth

Some people like to test the waters before going for a swim. I, on the other hand, jump right in. That is exactly how I began NIGAT's 2013 Art Therapy Summer School, with blind enthusiasm. This all-out attitude landed me right in the middle of it all, with a three-hundred and sixty degree view of Summer School: as a planner, participant, and presenter. And that is exactly how I will recount my experience, with a view from each perspective. We'll find out if I sank or swam...

1. The Planner
After serving on the main committee as secretary for NIGAT this past year, I got on board with the Summer School subcommittee. I love planning things, and I was enthusiastic about helping plan Summer School. Planning consisted of many meetings over coffee, working together, emails to coordinate, organising bookings, making phone calls, writing lists, and keeping spreadsheets. I got involved with it all, the planning and preparations. Did I mention I'd never been to Summer School before this year? It's true. I was  helping plan something I couldn't picture. It felt a little like trying to build Ikea furniture that I didn't have an instruction booklet for. (Those little diagrams are so helpful!) To be fair, Jayne McConkey and Eimear Quiery (the subcommittee team) expertly guided me through the planning process, giving me tools I needed, describing what the finished product should look like. In the end, all the nuts and bolts were in the right places and we had a beautiful looking piece of work- a great venue, a diverse range of presenters and thought-provoking topics, and inspiring materials. The greatest challenge this year proved to be promoting Summer School and getting participants signed up to attend. That part was out of our hands. But, with Jayne's creative problem-solving and the graciousness of our presenters, we came up with a solution that worked. Creativity to the rescue. Summer School was go!

2. The Presenter
Because I was also presenting at Summer School, I was simultaneously planning for the event and preparing my presentation in the months prior. Another creative process. Shirley McMillan and I met, discussed, and collaborated to create the framework for our presentation on "Art & Identity: Creating Inclusive Community in Schools and Beyond." The timing was just right for preparing this topic, as I got to reconnect with the group that inspired our presentation in March and co-facilitate a weekend at Greenhill YMCA with Shimna Integrated College's Gay-Straight Alliance. As always, the young people inspired me with their courage, wisdom, and laughter. This presentation was an incredibly personal topic to me, and I put my heart into it. Leading up to the day of presenting, I was nervous with all the last minute preparations. But the time came, and we went for it! I enjoyed working with Shirley, and I learned so much from her. I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to share a little bit about my own journey and how it intersected with the creation of the GSA. The presentation felt like a milestone, something to mark the beginning of my life and career as a creative therapist in Belfast.

3. The Participant
This is my favourite part! Participating in the Summer School made all of the hard work worth it. This is the part where I got to sit back, take it in, be inspired, nourished, and enjoy. I spent the week in Pamela Whitaker's workshop "Artefact: The Social Canvas and the Art of Everyday Places." It was unique, interesting, dynamic, and exactly what I needed to re-ignite my creative spirit. In beginning my journey as a therapist over the past few years, I lost a bit of my artist identity. My own arts practice had been set to the side. The Summer School in general and Pamela's workshop in particular, reminded me that my own creativity is vital to my practice as a therapist. Vital. It is my life force. Pamela's unique perspective challenged the boundaries of artist/therapist and took art therapy to the streets and galleries of Belfast. Her workshop not only helped me see this city in a new way, it helped me see the potential for what is possible as an artist/therapist. The future is limitless.

So, as planner, presenter, and participant at NIGAT's Summer School did I sink or swim? I definitely came out swimming. And I am so excited about next year's Summer School. I'm even more enthusiastic now than I was before!

ps. Be on the lookout for information regarding NIGAT's Summer School 2014