COVID-19 Material Management and Best Practices for Art Therapy

This week I started to cautiously ease into providing in-person art therapy groups at one the sites I am at that has re-mobilized face to face group therapy programming for clients.  A lot of consideration has been made organizationally to create a physical environment that will be safe for clients needing services.  This starts with mandatory healthcare screening measures and clearance upon entering the overall facility such as temperature checks, self report questions about potential COVID-19 symptoms and risk, lots of signage and visual cues for physical distancing in common spaces, and being provided a mask to wear if you do not already have one.

Within the program space in which I provide services, every group member is required to physically distance at least 6 feet from other members and the facilitator, which also includes limiting the maximum number of clients allowed in the group space depending on the required amount of space needed for physical distancing.  Everyone on-site (group leaders, staff, and clients) wear masks throughout the day’s programming.

As an art therapist facilitating primarily group work, I want to keep clients, their families, staff, and myself as safe as possible during this transition of navigating to this next normal of gathering together again, even if it is 6 feet apart.  The usual use of art therapy materials that are commonly available to the group or used in a session (often shared or handled by multiple people and as a community), as well as the way materials are managed or distributed in the art therapy space required serious reconsideration.  In an effort to make sense of this new, developing practice for myself and help educate or reassure those coming into the art therapy space, I drafted this COVID-19 Material Management and Best Practices in Art Therapy two pager. 

The two pager provides practices on three areas: Hand Washing/Sanitizing,  Material Management, and Disinfection of Art Materials to help promote infection control and decrease the spread of germs and illness.  I also provided examples of media that I use in my art therapy space to help distinguish between supplies that would be considered single use or could be used multiple times if properly disinfected.  I also started to individually put art materials into ziploc bags that could be given to clients to use (and clean before putting back into the bag) or if not possible to clean (such as oil pastels) to keep for their own use at home or discard.  Obviously in a group setting, where the amount of clients and number of groups throughout the week can be several, there may not be the necessary budget to sustain giving materials away or throwing them out.

As this evolving situation with COVID-19 continues to emerge, additional practices and approaches will certainly also surface within the art therapy community.  Medical art therapists who regularly work with immune comprised patients have instituted infection control procedures with their materials and their way of working as a common form of practice.  Considerations are made for providing meaningful and therapeutic art interventions that not only emotionally support a patient they are working with and appropriate treatment goals, but also the necessary use of handling, prepping, and using materials in the physical space to ensure this is a safe practice and will do no harm to ones health and wellbeing.   Art therapists’ knowledge and understanding of materials are a primary foundation to our practice, expertise, and training.

The two pager I created was informed by the valuable experiences of the medical art therapy community, as well as art educators working in classrooms with lots of students who are trying to figure out how to teach and make art together safely as a group when they are finally able to return to some form of in-person learning.  This American Art Therapy Association (AATA) COVID-19 related resource and recent journal publication, as well as AATA webinars that were hosted in March and May also provided helpful information about working in this new environment.

I am curious if you have any suggestions for practices you’ve started to use or consider for face to face art material use in this time of COVID-19, especially related to work with groups or more than one individual at once?  We can definitely keep learning from eachother as we face unfamiliar situations and working because of this pandemic.

Re-Organzing My Creative Space & Repurposing My Dried Up Marker Stash

This week I spent more time cleaning out and organizing my creative space and supplies.  A recent trip to IKEA and finally purchasing the RÅSKOG Kitchen Cart (yay!) to serve as an art cart (inspired by this blog post and on my wish list for months) and picking up some MÅLA marker accessories super inspired me….

Re-Organzing My Creative Space & Repurposing My Dried Up Marker Stash | creativity in motion
RÅSKOG Shelfie

My RÅSKOG set-up includes my sharpies, gel pens, paint pens, paint brushes, distressed ink, stamp pads, glitter glues, various mod podges, smashbooks, and more… Love this little, but amazing storage piece!  It will be nice to easily wheel this cart next to my side while working on my 3×5 365 and other projects. Look here at this RÅSKOG page from Pinterest on the different ways you can use this awesome cart.

Next…. the rest of my organizing on this day included going through all my old markers…. there were lots….

Re-Organzing My Creative Space & Repurposing My Dried Up Marker Stash | creativity in motion
Dried up marker stash

I shared the above photo with my social network and it wasn’t long before my art therapy friends began commenting with ideas & suggestions to repurpose and give a new life to them….  Everything from making them into alcohol inks (Kelly), puppets (Magdalena), pencil holders (Christy), magic wand accessories (Peg), building things with them using duck tape (Eleni), and this link from Suzanne that has lots more ideas related to making things out of old marker caps.

The suggestion that intrigued me the most was Diane’s and Rosemary’s: turning the old marker ink into some sort of spray paint accessory.  I couldn’t resist trying the idea out!

Re-Organzing My Creative Space & Repurposing My Dried Up Marker Stash | creativity in motion

With pliers, I took off the plastic ends of a handful of makers to expose the ink cylinder inside and then added a little bit of water (with the caps still on the other end).

Re-Organzing My Creative Space & Repurposing My Dried Up Marker Stash | creativity in motion

When I took off the marker cap, lots of bright & vivid ink would drip right through and at the recommendation of Diane and Rosemary, I blew into the open end of the marker to experiment with how much the ink would spray through the other end (tip). Lots of splattering & sprinkling fun!

Re-Organzing My Creative Space & Repurposing My Dried Up Marker Stash | creativity in motion

To soak up some of the water on the paper, I pressed the ink onto another sheet of paper monoprint style.  It was interesting to see the layers of color that the different colors of ink created! Thanks Diane & Rosemary!

It was awesome to read all the ideas and inspiration that came in from a simple art material photo.  One of the super good and helpful benefits of social media!  Perhaps as I continue to re-organize my creative space I should post other discarded & unwanted items for a fresh perspective & new ideas…. 🙂  Thank you to everyone who contributed- it was a delightful surprise to my creative week!

What materials and media do you repurpose into something new that creates another/different creative life for it?

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Altering/Transforming/Collaborating