Reflections on art and people flourishing together


Lynn Kapitan’s recent visit to La Trobe University has provoked much thought for different people. Kevin Prasetya and Erica Mainprize have been generous to share their reflections with us here…


Much of my time in studying my Masters, I was desperate to find a clear definition of our practice that sets Art Therapy apart from other disciplines. I believed that Art Therapy needed a ‘definitive’ professional role for a clear pathway forward. I was ambitious and perhaps a little naïve and, without knowing it, I had very quickly developed a narrow view of our work. Then I heard Lynn Kapitan speak at La Trobe last week about the landscape of art therapy practices. Lynn was truly inspirational.

Lynn addressed a kind of unconscious human error that can limit the way we see the world: a tendency to be categorical and classify things in binary terms, such as that art therapy be this and not that.

She explained how such a framework limits the true potential of Art Therapy – ‘Art’ is universal and ‘Therapy’ is context driven, and when taken together ‘Art Therapy’ can never be pigeon-holed as a “thing” that is stagnant or fixed. Art Therapy is a profession that is dynamic, that naturally cuts across all aspects of life and that can never be truly defined or placed in a silo.

Reflecting on Lynn’s words I soon realised that having a black and white definition of Art Therapy is short-sighted. Lynn gave me a unique vantage point into the profession and a sense of higher consciousness, far beyond the black and white; rather into an array of shades and colours. Now, for me, Art Therapy is about being flexible and taking risks in exploring new and different contexts where Art and people can flourish together. It’s about being inclusive rather than exclusive and embracing others who take interest in using the Arts to heal. And finally, it’s about remaining humble, because reality is so much bigger than the world in our head.

by Kevin Prasetya



lynn-kapitanLynn Kapitan’s presentation at La Trobe last Tuesday wouldn’t have been out of place around a campfire as the rich and warming tale of a traveller. She gave a sobering overview of the place of art therapy against the backdrop of the burgeoning Arts in Health movement, then went on to offer the concept of a metaphorical landscape in which art therapy can seek to orient itself – not by clinging to rigid structures and boundaries that will confine and limit our usefulness in the world, but by adopting an attitude of dynamic inquiry.

When asked what core principles Lynn herself holds on to by way of internal orientation in such an ocean of flux, her response was a gesture that will likely endure in the mind long after her words have been fuzzed by capricious memory: referring to her Tai Chi practice, Lynn demonstrated a movement that combines a turning of the body accompanied by a movement with the hands that symbolises both giving and receiving.

Lynn also spoke of broadening the concept of mental and emotional wellness to a macro-level, looking to the health of society as much as the individual, which she says is crucial to her work in Nicaragua.

A dramatic high point of her work in that country: a huge storm that caused brushes to be downed and hasty escape from the mural that was being worked on. Which of us would anticipate an elemental moment like this settling its quirky crown on all the planned hours, days and months of diligently plying one’s profession? The implied mandate is to expect the unexpected, that art therapy, sometimes frustrating in its uncertainties, nevertheless rewards the ability to remain open and responsive to the journey and to the ever changing landscape through which it unfolds.

by Erica Mainprize





2 thoughts on “Reflections on art and people flourishing together

  1. Love it! I too have been profoundly affected by Lynn’s talks here in Australia. I’m writing a persona/professional response for the next ANZATA newsletter. Thank you for these pieces.

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