Studio Art Therapy


Forero, L. (2019) La Ruche d’Art St. Henry [Photograph] Montreal: Private Collection

The Open Studio Approach to Art Therapy: A Systematic Scoping Review by Daniela Finkel and Michal Bat Or 

“This research encompasses a systematic scoping review of literature and research pertaining to the open studio approach to art therapy, which originated with the work of artists in psychiatric hospitals in the 1940’s. As art therapy became a profession, it sought recognition by adopting theories from other therapeutic disciplines. Today, however, there is an increase in the prevalence of studio practice that emphasizes art as the core of the therapeutic work; moreover, contemporary art therapy approaches even venture beyond the traditional definition of the profession to the realm of social action. Consequently, open studio practice has become more widespread and is currently implemented in many different contexts among a wide range of populations. The purpose of this research was to accurately map out world literature and research on the open studio approach to art therapy as well as identify relevant publications and main themes”

Link to The Open Studio Approach Article:

Studio Art Therapy by Catherine Hyland Moon

Notes from Chapters 4,5,6,7

  • Art therapy studios can exist within different contexts—within nature, within the home, and in a re-purposed indoor space (re-designed with props and materials). In each context the art therapy studio should be a work of art.
  • Studio art therapy practice is an intention to create opportunities for artistry with either yourself, within an arts based therapeutic relationship, or within an open studio located in a place of community (for example a gallery, library, neighbourhood garden, etc.)
  • The studio is an installation. There can be an artistic centrepiece/display, a variety of art making spaces with different materials (as scenes of engagement), comfortable spaces to sit, an attention to lighting, composition, a sense of reaching out through a hospitable space. The art therapist can rearrange the space and include artistic displays that enhance the artistry of the environment.
  • The studio environment recognises diversity in terms of values, ideas and sensibilities. Is the artistic environment inclusive? Do the art materials relate to the client’s sense of agency within the world at large? Are the art materials informed by an understanding of gender, class, race, ethnicity, age, ability, personal preference?
  • Art therapists should undertake their work as artists in residence. Art therapists should make the ordinary extraordinary.
  • Domestic, found and natural materials are welcome.
  • The art therapy studio space should encourage co-production, the service user can bring materials, alter the space, rearrange displays, etc.
  • The open studio model has a commitment to psychoeducation and the psycho-social model, where the impact of art therapy is lived within relationships related to society, work, family, community, environment, health, education, etc.
  • A studio exists within life itself. Our inner studio is always within us ready to be expressed.
  • How do we make the most of the environments we inhabit?
  • Art therapy can exist in a three dimensional space—an environment as an assemblage of materials that are both on and off the table.
  • Materials should be customised for the client/service user.
  • The art therapist should work as an artist and practice using their artist identity.
  • Relational aesthetics refers to a relationship of shared art making. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the art therapist is creating art in the session, but they create the atmosphere and a sense of hospitality.
  • Responding to the poetry of our clients’ lives is being attentive to the complexity of what a person presents, and we respond with sensitivity and empathy, rather than a scripted or predetermined intervention.
  • A studio cultivates responses, stories, actions and behaviours that can also be considered as a client’s works of art.
  • Psychoaesthetics is a term used by Arthur Robbins to denote the witnessing of art within art therapy as evoking the shared imagination of both the client and the therapist. It is an aesthetic consciousness, a response, and an immersion. An appreciation of the characteristics of an artwork throughout its production, it is a form of attunement based on a shared dedication (by the client and the therapist) to the making of art as a life companion.
  • Witnessing is a careful consideration of all aspects of the production of art—its details, characteristics and the living out of the client’s intention to create something of themselves. There is an aesthetic responsibility to committed attention and an openness to the intentions of the artworks produced within art therapy sessions.
  • “Through [an] attentive, open, curious, nonjudgmental, wonder-filled approach to artworks, we establish a co-creative venture with them. We are as ready to be affected by them as we are to have an effect upon them We don’t look to diagnose them any more than we expect them to diagnose us. We engage in a relationship with them. In the art therapy studio, we make our art and our art makes us” (Moon, Studio Art Therapy, p. 151)
  • We must consider what we have as aesthetic biases (in regards to the art materials we prefer and the approaches to art making that we prefer). A client’s artwork will always take us beyond ourselves, in the sense of taking us somewhere we haven’t been before. “An arts based model of art therapy places a high value on the artistic identity of both the art therapist and client” (Moon, Studio Art Therapy, p. 162). Both the client and the art therapist are inspired by the productions made within the studio.
  • The art therapist helps the client get started, they actively engage with their choices for materials, their preferred methods of making, and how they would like to display (and live with) their artwork upon completion of art therapy.
  • The art therapist respects the poetry of their clients’ lives, the intricacies and textures of their stories that make each unique person a work of art.
  • The therapeutic alliance, within the open studio model, takes place between the participant and the art therapist and amongst all the participants engaging in a communal space that is filled with opportunity. Making and conversation go hand in hand, people come and go, and there is a pathway to follow in regards to each person’s own intentions within the space.
  • “Ideas for art making do not materialise from thin air; we borrow and build upon and remake ideas from looking at the world around us, including the work of other artists” (Moon, Studio Art Therapy, p. 179). Studio art therapy can incorporate art gallery and museum visits, and the viewing of artworks within books/magazines. There may be films about artists, artist talks, and the skill sharing of art techniques between the art therapist and participants and between participants themselves. Visual culture and art history can be incorporated within art therapy to invite arts based reflections, encourage debates, and an understanding of how materials can be used within art making. Viewing the work from a variety of artists can offer examples of installation art, environmental art, conceptual art, digital art, text based art, artist books, fibre arts, etc.

Examples of Open Studio Models and Further Reading

Edward Adamson

Open Studio Model

Edward Adamson’s Collection of Artworks and Information about his Work

What is an Art Hive?

The Art Hives Network connects small and  regenerative  community arts studios together in order to build solidarity across geographic distances. This effort seeks to strengthen and promote the benefits of these  inclusive, welcoming spaces across Canada, and throughout the world. Also known as  ”public homeplaces,” these third spaces, create  multiple  opportunities for dialogue, skill sharing, and art making between  people of differing socio-economic backgrounds, ages, cultures and abilities.

An Art Hive:

  • welcomes everyone as an artist and  believes art making is a human behavior.
  • celebrates the strengths and creative capacities of individuals and communities.
  • fosters self-directed experiences of creativity, learning, and skill sharing.
  • encourages emerging grass roots leaders of all ages.
  • provides free access as promoted by gift economy.
  • shares resources including the abundant materials available for creative reuse.
  • experiments with ideas through humble inquiry and arts-based research.
  • exchanges knowledge about funding strategies and economic development.
  • partners with colleges and universities to promote engaged scholarship.
  • gardens wherever possible to renew, regenerate, and spread seeds of social change.

Further Reading

Art Therapists who Champion Studio Art Therapy and the Significance of Aesthetics within Art Therapy 

  • Catherine Hyland Moon has written the book Studio Art Therapy: Cultivating the Artist Identity in the Art Therapist and she is the editor of Materials and Media in Art Therapy.
  • Catherine Hyland Moon, “Open Studio Approach to Art Therapy”, Chapter 11, The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy (E-Book Ulster University).
  • Catherine Hyland Moon, “Relational Aesthetics and Art Therapy,” Chapter 3 in Approaches to Art Therapy: Theory and Technique (E-Book Ulster University)
  • Janis Timm-Bottos, “Public Practice Art Therapy” in the Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal
  • Janis Timm-Bottos, “The Five and Dime: Developing a Community’s Access to Art Based Research” Chapter 6, in Art Therapy and Postmodernism: Creative Healing through a Prism. (E-book Ulster University).
  • Pat Allen has written the books Art is a Way of Knowing and Art as a Spiritual Path.
  • Savneet Talwar has edited the book Art Therapy for Social Justice: Radical Intersections (E-book Ulster University). In her book she has a chapter about a women’s art making studio she founded called “The Sweetness of Money: The Creatively Empowered Women (CEW) Design Studio, Feminist Pedagogy and Art Therapy”.
  • Bruce Moon has written many books about his approach to art therapy and believes in co-creation within art therapy. He has written Introduction to Art Theory: Faith in the Product.
  • Edith Kramer has written Art as Therapy: Collected Papers (E-book Ulster University Library), Art as Therapy with Children (in the Ulster University Library)
  • David Maclagan has written the book Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense (this book is in the Ulster University library).
  • Arthur Robbins has written the books The Artist as Therapist and Therapeutic Presence: Bridging Expression and Form (these books are in Ulster University library).
  • Bobby Lloyd and Debra Kalmanowitz (2011) “Inside Out Outside In: Portable Studio and Found Objects” in Art in Action: Expressive Arts Therapy and Social Change edited by Ellen and Stephen Levine (this book is an e-book in Ulster University library)
  • Joy Schaverien, The Revealing Image: Analytical Art Psychotherapy in Theory and Practice
  • Chris Wood 

The significance of studios

Chris Wood, Convivencia

Private and Public Spaces of Hope

  • Shaun McNiff has written the books Art as Medicine, Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression, Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul (these books are available in the Ulster University library).