Photo: A traditional May Bush in Ireland, placed at the boundary of a farm or home on May Day (May 1st) and kept in place throughout the month of May. The May Bush is a symbol of protection and good luck for the growing season during the Celtic festival of Bealtaine (the beginning of summer).

The Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal has produced a special issue entitled Art Therapy and Environment. 

In this issue environment is defined broadly and includes compelling and thought provoking articles from Canadian and international art therapists and allied professionals.



Art Therapy and Environment Editorial 

Art Therapy Caves: Linking Community Art to a Therapeutic Space by Cora H. McLachlan

Global Action Art Therapy: Cross-Cultural Experiences in South Korea by Seung Yeon Lee

Garden as Canvas: Therapeutic Metaphors in a Children’s Garden by Carol Knibbe & Petrea Hansen-Adamidis

A Natural Response to a Natural Disaster: The Art of Crisis in Nepal by Jess Linton

The Flowers of Compassion: A Trauma-Informed Artistic Event Involving Three Generations of Slovenians by Katarina Kompan Erzar

Access to the CATA Journal



Photo Credit: Sandra Noeth

Sandra Noeth is a dramaturge, cultural scholar and curator based in Berlin.

Her research interests include “integrity and protest in relation to the human body,” the connection between aesthetics and politics, and “bodies in bordering situations” (CREATE Ireland + Dublin Dance Festival).


Photo Credit: Siobhan Davies Dance and Dublin Dance Festival

As part of her residency with Dance Limerick and Dublin Dance Festival Sandra Noeth showcased her ideas involving movement and environments. She asked these questions: “How might physical and choreographic strategies represent, implement, legitimise and rehearse social and political action?” and “How do empathy, presence, improvisation or compositions inform the experience of borders?” (Dublin Dance Festival Programme)

walking with graffiti boards 2.jpg

Photo Credit: The World Atlas of Street Art by Rafael Schacter. Artists: David Renault and Mathieu Tremblin

Movement is integral to art production, the making of place and composing identity in relation to social and political environments. Art therapy involves the art of movement, and can contribute to an understanding of aesthetics and politics. An examination of borders is part of art therapy – making lines demarcating personal distinctions and demonstrating the crossing-over into new areas of discernment. Art therapy can also inform protests that are both personal and socially informed.

Art therapy marks out routes of passage within a designated space, it can design sequences of movement and denote a body in motion. Compositions on the move, explorations of environment, and art influenced by context that simultaneously re-imagines space according to somatic knowledge.

The art therapy studio can also include the world-at-large.

Art therapy contributes to civic dialogue – art therapy asking complicated questions about expression and representation in civil society.


“I am currently working both as a curator as well as an academic researcher on understanding the role, status and agency of the body in bordering processes. I am looking at different experiences of borders and boundaries – national and geopolitical, architectural, material and built borders, as well as more symbolic, imagined, social, gender-related ones. They are very often negotiated through the body, through movement, physicality and performativity. And I question how the body, how movement-based strategies can inform us about these processes. How for example practical and theoretical knowledge from dance and choreography, how composition and improvisation, embodiment or somatic modes of attention, rhythm and affects might help us understand the experience of bordering but also how borders are staged, aestheticized, rehearsed, represented, and ultimately legitimised maintained or challenged”

(Sandra Noeth Quotations, from CREATE (National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts, Ireland), News/May 2017, Sandra Noeth on “Bodies, Borders and Movement” an interview with Deirdre Mulrooney)


Photo: of Marie Lorenz by San Suzie, C-Monster Website by Carolina A. Miranda

My belief is that uncertainty brings about a heightened awareness of place. When we feel unstable we see more (Marie Lorenz, Artist Statement, MoMA Studio Visit)

Marie Lorenz is an artist who carries people in her water taxi to explore shorelines, tides and currents. She is a waterborne artist offering people the opportunity to float along the shores of New York in a wooden row boat that maneuvers through overlapping realties. Her art is concerned with observation, collection, and navigation. It is about physically entering the environment, being in relationship to oneself, and responding simultaneously to urban and nature based habitats.





Photos: Row Boot and Roots (Artist Marie Lorenz, Tide and Current Taxi Project)

Article: “All the Fun of the Fair” by Julie Belcove, The Financial Times, Saturday, May 3, 2014

Her water taxi has become a performative art work, a way to meet people and transport them to new places. The view from the water allows the imagination to wander, it is a moving encounter with skylines and shorelines. It is foremost a time out, a launching into a different kind of space that encourages reverie and suspended action.

In 2012 Marie Lorenz led boat trips to discover derelict pieces of materials floating and gathering along shorelines. Her tours were a discovery of “wrecked things or places left to waste” ( A search for nature littered with debris, a connection between what pollutes, and what has become polluted. A situation made by currents and tides collecting and bringing together opposing realties, a layering of what has been lost, discarded and outcast.

When the water rises during a storm and pulls objects into the harbour, the tide acts like a giant centrifuge, reorganizing things according to their shape and density. I collect and record the objects as another way to collaborate with the tide. I want to preserve the mystery of each discovery, like beachcombing, or finding a hidden treasure (Marie Lorenz, Artist Statement,

Working along the margins of different realities is a vital aspect of art therapy. A searching for what has been thrown away (or what has floated adrift) within the currents that compose a life. Art therapy collects partial objects and unbinds situations where there are layers of unwanted things. It is a means of sorting and identifying the value of what has been entangled in the ebb and flow of time.


Photo: New York Today: An Island of Art, New York Times City Room Blog


Tide and Current Taxi

Marie Lorenz





Photo: Tino Sehgal, Outside the Tate Modern, London

The artwork started to emerge. I started to see how the performers inhabited the space, telling a narrative of sorts. They seemed to be conducting a commentary on a progress of being human. Not progress in technological terms, just a simple progress of bodies moving in time and space, a progress apparently disrupted and changed by encounters, disrupted by moments that change the way thoughts and consequently bodies move (Miranda Pope, “Wish You Were Here: Tino Sehgal at the Tate”).

German artist Tino Sehgal choreographs experiences, he constructs situations in public locations that catch people off guard, beginning conversations and contact between strangers. The orientation of his performative art form is influenced by his background as a dancer. The materials of the dance between strangers is physical presence, happenstance and discussions related to human experience and philosophy. People come together in unplanned encounters that stimulate contact through a sense of being together within a particular place and time. Participants are stopped in their paths, in order to meet within an enhanced level of human connection. Names are not important, but sharing opinions, beliefs and experiences entangle the conversation with different approaches to meaning.

Sehgal’s work is not theatrical; it is a choreography with choices. It is about movement, pathways, interactions and encounters. He implicates habitual movements within public thoroughfares with surprise meetings. Somehow awakening the body, while awakening the mind, while inviting new ways of approaching everyday worlds.


Photo: Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, 2012

In 2012 Sehgal produced These Associations at the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London. He trained interested members of the public to walk, sing, jog and talk to strangers. The movement of Sehgal’s volunteers was described by the Tate’s Gallery Director Chris Deacon as an “anarchic experience, a flow of energy that gave a feeling of recognition and belonging” (Tino Sehgal Takes Over Tate Modern Turbine Hall by Genevieve Hassan).


Drawing: Doris Schlaepfer, Drawings After These Associations

Unknowingly, I became part of Sehgal’s production in the Turbine Hall.  I was swept up into a wave of people pacing the large cavernous space, at first in lines, then running, then scattering suddenly. I was approached by one of Sehgal’s mediators, who talked about family, regret, confusion and loss. The conversation happened not at the beginning, but in the middle. There were no introductions, no mapping out of identities, just two life currents meeting at mid-stream.


Photo: Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, 2012

In their recent book Art as Therapy Alain de Botton and John Armstrong reference Sehgal as a political artist changing the nature of human interaction through addressing the collective personality. The art that Sehgal choreographs is both intangible, a passing experience, and also the making of a mind and body imprint.

To call the experience Sehgal has set in motion life-affirming would be no more than platitude. This is a profound work and at the same time riveting; a new form of art somewhere between theatre, performance art, dance and memoir and yet based on an immense gathering of humanity that includes all of us as live participants. Life art, I suppose…Attention is what it is all about, this precious thing we scarcely give one another and which is both the substance and the object of Sehgal’s work. We often speak of art as life-changing; this event truly has that potential in all its fullness and humanity. One learns about other people, and one learns about oneself. I shall never forget it (Tine Sehgal These Associations – A Review of Laura Cumming).

The significance of Sehgal’s work for art therapy is choreographing experiences – generating public art forms that ignite interactions within the extended practice of art therapy. The essence of Sehgal’s art is meeting people where they are in the moment. Exposing the materials of daily life, as the materials of art therapy in a combination of togetherness and sharing. Art therapy needs to embody spontaneous gestures on a larger scale, and to embrace public happenings as important therapeutic interventions.


Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong

Tino Sehgal These Associations – A Review by Laura Cumming

Tino Sehgal Takes Over Tate Modern Turbine Hall by Genevieve Hassan

Wish You Were Here: Tino Sehgal at the Tate by Miranda Pope

Doris Schlaepfer,

Lines Made by Walking

November 23, 2013


Photos: Belfast Art Therapy Summer School, Land Art Workshop

Walking is a way of drawing lines, marking out spaces, and mapping. Roaming through different kinds of terrains (urban, rural and suburban), can involve physical experiences within the art therapy encounter. Walking can be documented through photographs, videos, and sketches. It can be a means of foraging for art materials (natural and found), a way to frame therapeutic conversations, and a method for making routes through the world at hand. Collections of found materials can be gathered, as a kind of ritual. Bundled they become hand held sculptures and collages. Natural materials can be worn, attached to clothing, made into hats, masks, or strung on to cord for wearing.


“Our gait is as personal as our fingertip”, writes Karen O’Rourke in Walking and MappingArtists as Cartographers. With our feet we make choices, select passageways, and shape the spaces we pass through. We respond to experiences coming at us from all directions, negotiating the unexpected.  Even in the course of a routine walk we come across unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps artworks can be made and left along the paths we walk, whether along forests trails or concrete foot paths. These gifts becoming a way to reach out to others, to give something of ourselves away in anticipation of being found.


Walking is a public form of art therapy disclosing our whereabouts through the lines of our travel. Our feet draw our marks of connection within and through particular places. Do we trace the same paths repeatedly? Do we walk off course? In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit champions the benefits of getting lost, as the beginning of finding another way. Going beyond what we know, begins a collaboration with chance and change. “Getting lost is not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are” (Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost).


Karen O’Rourke, Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers

Richard Long, Walking Artist,

Hamish Fulton, Walking Artist,

Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Pieces Found Along the Way

November 8, 2013

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The Irish artist Tony O’Malley (1913-2003) was well known for his paintings, however his wooden collages or constructions are captivating assemblages of his everyday journeys. The Royal Hibernian Gallery in Dublin has produced an intriguing display of these three dimensional drawings or inscapes. The wooden collages seem to formulate constructions of a home away from home, a series of storyboards portraying O’Malley’s Irish memories while living in Cornwall. Abandoned pieces of wood have found a new purpose within O’Malley’s wall sculptures. Discarded and lost fragments are composed into a new whole, a collection of waste materials transformed into new compositions of meaning.

IMG_6401  IMG_6372

O’Malley is a self taught artist who began generating artworks in his 40’s. His constructions are composed of wood, string, yarn, nails, and oil paint. The compositions are personal symbols, re-instating the discarded into a reclaimed dignity. The collages forge new relationships; they are collections from walks deeply felt. Wandering, finding what is needed, and making odd things come together is an art. It is a formulation of personal icons, that could also find a place within art therapy.

In O’Malley’s sculptural collages, there is a sense of reconfiguring what could easily be forgotten. He integrates what has been lost into the found. Bits of string, yarn and nails hold pieces together. There is a sense of being in O’Malley’s work shed when viewing these artworks. A work shed with wood, tools, twine, hooks, fixings, and paint cans, a personal space for rummaging and reconstituting meaning. The shed as an enclosed studio or cabin of the imagination, holding found and hardware materials in drawers, shelves, and workbenches. The sound of hammering, the smell of paint, and a process of inscribing lines on the surfaces of old relics of once functional items.


O’Malley’s constructions are the materials of a personal memoir, the inscapes of a traveller walking down beaches and back roads searching for more of himself. The found pieces of his journeys are not unlike pages of a journal, each a fragment of memory, a collection of passages.

Photos: From the exhibition Tony O’Malley Constructions, at the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery in Dublin. 


An empathy with the natural world can become a vital part of children’s psyches; they will learn to take nothing for granted, and will continually probe and ponder. They will have a sense of wonder and mystery about the world around them; it will become a vibrant part of their consciousness…In short, they will feel committed and responsible for the world in which they have been placed as caretakers for a brief moment of time (Paddy Madden, Go Wild at School).

By cultivating gardens as art installations, children are producing habitats which combine aesthetic and sensory experiences. Working with nature, landscapes, and living art materials (foraged branches, stems, clay, flowers, seaweed, etc.) offers children the opportunity to become foraging artists, as they collect and harvest their own art materials. Making their own landmarks, dens, and shelters, supplies children with an escape route for a welcomed ‘time out’ from daily life. The emotional fulfillment and solace gained from  making their own environments, supports well being and has a restorative effect.


Community gardens can also offer a way for children to enact community activism. Guerrilla gardening (creating gardens within neglected or forgotten pieces of land in urban areas) can be a source of pride and a link to working with adults in a collaborative way. Intergenerational guerrilla gardening is a way to collectively envision social change, while also learning about gardening and how to work as a team. Guerrilla gardening offers children a conceptual understanding of the world at large, a way of developing analytical skills and strategies for community involvement.


The Children and Nature Network ( compiles international research supporting the educational and health benefits related to children’s contact with nature.

The following is a summary of some of these research findings.

1.  Nature enhances children’s skills in the following areas –

Problem Solving, Teamwork, Experimentation, Decision-Making, Adaptability, Confidence, Enhanced Communication, Sensory Development, Intellectual Stimulation (Carol Duffy, Childhood Specialist, Ireland)

2. Recent research proposes that exposure to the outdoors reduces anxiety, and enhances learning. (Dr. Dorothy Matthews, American Society for Microbiology)

3. “A den (made from natural materials) is the child’s sense of self being born, a chance to create a home away from home that becomes a manifestation of who they are. The den is the chrysalis out of which the butterfly is born.” (David Sobel, Antioch New England Graduate School)


4. “By bolstering children’s attention resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress”. Engagement with natural settings has been linked to a child’s ability to focus, and enhances cognitive abilities. Nearby nature is a buffer for anxiety and adversity in children. (Dr Nancy Wells, Cornell University, New York)

5. The outdoor environment enhances the understanding of social relationships, language, physical movement, reasoning, curiosity, and the capacity to imagine possibilities. (Jane Williams-Siegfredsen, Viborg University College, Denmark)

6. Fostering children’s identity to include personal and social relationships to nature, improves their empathy and sense of inter-connection with the world-at-large. (Anita Barrows, Clinical Psychologist, Berkeley, California)

7. Nature can activate sensory, emotional, cognitive, symbolic and creative levels of human experience through de-familiarisation. Taken for granted everyday things, are sensitively given new meaning and enhance a child’s capacity to perceive. (Jan Van Boeckel, Research Fellow Aalto University Helsinki, Anthropologist, Filmmaker)

8. “Involuntary attention, as opposed to directed attention, can be cultivated within nature”. The “soft fascination” of the natural world can restore focussed attention required for directed studies. Involuntary attention is achieved without effort by simply observing what captures our attention. Our mind wanders and takes a rest from concentrated effort, which in turn improves learning. (Marc Berman, Brain Scientist, University of Michigan)


Paddy Madden, Go Wild at School

Children and Nature Network

Nature Art Education

Wild by Nature

March 5, 2013

I needed to do something that would renew my spirit and give me a sense of peace and optimism. That’s when I created this garden. What continually amazes me is how something so simple as this garden has stimulated so many wonderful conversations with the people in my community (Vancouver, Green Streets Volunteer).

Art therapy can be cultivated within the common lands of community life. These might include community gardens, playgrounds, parks and schools. A boulevard might also be a place to cultivate food or flowers, leave symbolic objects, decorate trees, leave notes, and assert your identity. A front garden and green spaces lining sidewalks can be personalized with guerrilla art, homemade crafts, and free food stalls.


The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut describes how cycles of the natural world, and metaphors for gardening have rich psychological associations. For example –

Transplanting, Blossoming, Digging Deep, Grounded, Putting Down Roots, Cutting Back, Branching Out, Shedding, Weeding Out, etc.

Art therapy is largely an indoor activity that takes place behind closed doors. It is enclosed within a potentially claustrophobic space. Using the outdoor landscape as an art therapy studio liberates the senses. Participants are confronted with the ever changing conditions of weather, noise, seasonal materials, and varying temperatures.


Neighborhoods can be a series of interactive gardens, whereby householders create sidewalk galleries. In Vancouver, Green Streets neighbourhoods encourage idiosyncratic displays of community spirit at street level. Domestic decorations inhabit urban walkways. Front lawns can be places to grow food gardens and scenes for the imagination. The unpredictable display of the personal within public streets, either through unique gardening styles or through shrine like arrangements of offerings, is invigorating to both mind and body.

The aim of art is not simply to communicate something that has already been formulated, but to create something unexpected.

One of art’s attractions is that it constantly finds new ways of pushing forward into a territory that feels quite strange and yet shockingly familiar.

(Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense by David Maclagan)

Fritz Haeg is commissioned by cultural institutions to dig up grass and install vegetable gardens within suburban front lawns. These gardens become educational and conversational sites for neighbors and walkers. The front lawn is the canvas, a gallery of vegetables in front of the house. Working the garden is public, and interactive, the potential to share produce and ideas within a community context.


A garden is a work in progress, an art assemblage, a zone of shared imaginative experience. The ambiguous territories of sidewalk boulevards, playgrounds and parks offer spaces for processing, and connecting with a variety of people and activities. We move through collective community spaces and respond to different happenings along the way.


The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut

Fritz Haeg

Fritz Haeg Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn

City of Vancouver Green Streets Program 

David Maclagan Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense

Anthony Elliott Subject to Ourselves: Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Postmodernity


Davie Village Community Garden, Vancouver


The People’s Apothecary Garden located behind the Vancouver Island College of Art (in Victoria, British Columbia) is a curatorial project produced by the Green Tongues Collective.

The People’s Apothecary is a herb garden, a commons, a sculpture, a political statement, a model for creating self-reliant communities, an intervention into exploitative state systems, a relationship with ourselves, the earth and each other” ( Serina Zapf, “The People’s Apothecary: Situating the Garden”).

The herb garden is a living art installation, an engaging environment for learning, discussion, and social action. It is composed from a variety of herbs which can be freely picked as needed by members of the local community. The garden was cultivated as a result of a series of collective work parties. Besides people, organic matter, seeds, weather and compost also collaborate in the production of the garden. It is not the result of one singular artistic vision, but many interactions happening simultaneously. The People’s Apothecary is open to rearrangement , and transformation, based on the changing conditions of people, plants, soil, and community.

We try to figure out how we’re going to interact with the land and other people who use it, and that puts us in a complex relationship with all kids of different authorities, needs and patterns.


Inspired by Oliver Kellhammer’s biological interventions, which act as both public art forms and acts of environmental activism, The People’s Apothecary is a sculpting of social space. Using organic gardening methods, the herb garden is a collective endeavour. Each participant contributes time, seeds, plants, mulching materials, and care. It is cultivated collectively and can be harvested by the community at any time. The garden is an example of community engaged artistic practice, that is regenerative and beyond the parameters of the gallery as an often clinical space.

Many minds from many perspectives have collaborated to realize and communicate the different ideas and concepts of what the garden will be and what it is. The creation of this herbal commons blurs the lines between artist, herbalist, expert, amateur, healer, curator, viewer, student, and community organizer. 


The core principles of the Green Tongues Collective are:

1. To decentralise medicine, by making medicinal plants accessible to everyone.

2. To create spaces for the interconnection of wildlife, herbs, and humans.

3. To create empowering places where people can come together.

4. To make collective art (through gardening) as a way of encouraging critical thinking, collective action, participatory spaces, and as a means of escaping traditional divisions between artist/viewer.

5. To create spaces for conversation.

6. To empower participants to gain a deeper understanding and connection to their land and their health.

7. To create spaces that bring communities together in ways which weave together people, skills and land.

“The People’s Apothecary is life as art and art as life”




The People’s Apothecary Garden, Vancouver Island School of Art, Victoria, British Columbia

Botanical Interplay

February 22, 2013


The Coiled River by Sharon Kallis


Photo: Branch Weave by Sharon Kallis

Sharon Kallis is an urban weaver, socially engaged land artist, with a ‘one-mile’ diet approach to sourcing art materials. She enacts social engagement through collaborative knowledge, whereby local communities re-shape their environments through botanical improvisation. Her art involves weaving invasive species of plants into coiled baskets, installing willow sculptures, crocheting bind weed, and evoking a communal stewardship in regards to the living landscapes that surround urban living


Photo: Community Wall Repair by Sharon Kallis

My role is often of a travelling catalyst: a new element in an environment, spring boarding a local community to see their own landscape from a fresh perspective and with renewed appreciation and wonder. Basic weaving, lashing and hand skills are introduced and individuals work side by side while a sculptural direction unfolds. Drawing upon a women’s cultural work history and social structure; as with quilting bees, everyone’s piece becomes part of the whole.

The gradual decay and natural process of succession is embraced as the eco-system becomes the final collaborator. Work decays while birds perch, insects feast, and fresh growth sprouts on the sculptural work in-situ, participating in the eco-system – not independent of its surroundings (Sharon Kallis, Statement of Practice).


Sharon Kallis is currently an artist in residence with the Vancouver Parks Board, where she has a studio ‘field house’ within a city park.  The inspired practice of situating artists within parks across Vancouver is the vision of Jill Weaving, Arts and Culture Coordinator at the Vancouver Parks Board. The interplay of people and parks is a natural setting for socially engaged community art practices.

Sharon is also an artist at the Means of Production Garden in Vancouver which grows living art materials for community harvest. The Means of Production Garden is a platform for interdisciplinary interventions with natural art materials and ecological surroundings.

Our goal is to continue to create community-focussed, cutting-edge performative eco-actions  that blur lines between art, daily-living, social actions and environmental awareness using the site resources as a ‘living palette’ through which people develop a closer, more tactile relationship to nature (Sharon Kallis, Means of Production Artists Raw Resource Collective).



Sharon Kallis Website

Sharon Kallis in her Studio at McClean Park Field House, Vancouver