Art therapy students complete mural at Office of Children and Family Services

The art therapy students who recently painted a mural on the entry wall of the Erie Office of Children and Family Services just wanted to bring a smile to a child’s face.

And with a wall stroked with images of a smiling sun, crowing roosters, a flowered quilt, moon and stars and a fairy tale castle, it seems hard to imagine they won’t achieve that goal.

The members of Cathlyn Hahn’s senior art therapy seminar class painted the mural late last year in the children and family services office, 154 W. Ninth St., as part of a service learning project. Members of the class are: Carrie Frank, Stephanie Balaban, Beth Hauck, Morgan Gunter, Jessica Butler, Holly Horton and Carla Sabatowski.

Hahn said the class was invited to paint the mural and worked out the details of the project with the assistance of Debbie Sardini and Karen Herberle at the local family services office.

“Art therapy is a human service profession that helps in counseling and therapy and I think they thought we would be in tuned to what to put on the wall and how to make it therapeutic,” Hahn said.

“We wanted something calming with warm colors,” she added. “We wanted something a child could appreciate but with a complexity that an adult would enjoy as well. We also wanted to add the element of fantasy to communicate that dreams and wishes can come true.”

The Mercyhurst art therapy program utilizes the creative process as a means to reconcile human emotional conflicts and of fostering self-awareness, personal health and growth. Art therapy is a growing field, particularly in the aftermath of 9-11 as it continues to be utilized as a therapeutic tool in helping people deal with their pain through art, Hahn said.

Mercyhurst’s art therapy program, founded in 1979, is one of the oldest in the country, according to the American Art Therapy Association; itself founded just nine years earlier in 1970.
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