TeenLife Blog

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Alverno College: True Anderson

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Paige Gerhard studied visual arts at Southern Oregon University.

True Anderson studies art therapy at Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI.

How did you discover your passion for the visual arts and art therapy?

When I was young, I had a natural attraction to drawing. I started drawing as a hobby and discovered qualities and passions about myself through art.

What’s your favorite part about art and art therapy?

Art became personal – it helped me to express myself. My quiet thoughts materialized in my works, and my art became a language to me. I opened myself up to other art forms and experiences, such as glass blowing, pottery, blacksmithing, metal working and painting. My enthusiasm in the topic only grew from there. These past experiences helped shaped my choice of studying art, and at the end of high school, I chose art therapy as my future career.

I learned that this unique field combined both my desire to help people and my passion for art. I learned that art can heal. It can bring cultures and people together. It can even restore memory – powerful and amazing.

Why did you pick Alverno College?

Only a handful of schools in Wisconsin that offer such a unique major, so Alverno College was a clear choice for me. The art therapy program at Alverno College immediately drew me in with its rigorous courses and variety of field placements.

What has been a favorite moment at the college?

I was recently placed at a site working within memory care, helping people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

I would go in once a week and facilitate a “Memories in the Making” art session for a handful of participants. On my first day with these participants, I noticed one woman who wasn’t picking up her brush. She only stared blankly at her paper. I walked over to talk to her and encouraged her to paint and she said, “I am not an artist, I can’t make art.”

After hearing this, I pulled out the pallet that was sitting next to her. I asked her if there was any color on the palette that stood out to her - she chose yellow. I asked her if she wanted to test it out on the paper, which she did. Then she proceeded to paint diagonal, yellow streaks across the paper form corner to corner. She said, “I don’t know what to do next.” And I asked her if she wanted to add another color, and she said “I like blue.” So she dipped her brush in the sky blue paint and painted blue in between the existing yellow lines. She said she was done and I asked her if she wanted to give a title to her piece and she said, “Sunshine in the sky.”

That all sounds like a simple process, but the other facilitator explained to me that this woman has never drawn lines before – just circles. The colors and lines seem to speak to her about the sunshine. Remembering the sunshine was a warm and wonderful memory.

How do you think this program will help in what you want to do next?

My intention in pursuing a career in art therapy is to be an art facilitator, guiding those who I come across using art as a tool for health and to continue experiencing moments where people are positively affected through the art-making process.