As a response to and reflection of the event, FSU Art Therapy Program Director Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell shared her perspective of the dynamics that took place before, during, and after Pence’s announcement, her statement presented below:
“As many are aware, the Florida State University Art Therapy Program was selected by Karen Pence as the setting to unveil her initiative, Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART. This event took place on the FSU campus on October 18th and included a student-led tour of the art therapy program facilities.
As others from the program have already eloquently reported, considering our position as a potential host spurred numerous angst filled moments and discussions among faculty as we worked to sort out the costs and benefits of such engagement for our profession and students. We addressed the question: Can we, without condoning or accepting particular political viewpoints associated with our guest, endorse art therapy and offer exposure to alternative viewpoints and social justice values? In the end, we came to an understanding of the event as an opportunity to expand awareness of the art therapy profession and to promote care and attention to those who do not experience privilege in our country.
The art therapy faculty members understood the importance of listening to and addressing the perspectives of our students. Therefore, at the earliest opportunity, we called together a program Town Hall meeting to announce FSU’s decision to move forward with the event. We shared what we knew about the event, answered questions, and asked students to help us brainstorm the best ways to navigate the complex occasion. They came up with excellent ideas.
From the start, all students were all invited to attend the event, but it was also made clear that students had a choice of attending or not as they had not had the opportunity to choose the event itself. Students were assured that any decision they made about participation and attendance would be respected. In the end, the majority of students chose to be at the press conference, many students participated in creating a booklet of artwork reflecting their ideas about art therapy and social justice issues (that was not reviewed by faculty) which was presented to Mrs. Pence during her program tour, and five art therapy students volunteered to be a part of the tour to share perspectives on the program, personal artwork, and community projects in which they had engaged.
Throughout the entire day of activities, I was impressed with the students’ grace, courage and professionalism. Students shared their motivation for joining the profession, the passion they had for working with the under-served such as migrant workers and their children, and those that have been targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. During the luncheon event following the press conference, where more informal interaction with Ms. Pence was an option, it is my understanding that students thoughtfully asked Mrs. Pence the tough questions related to social justice issues.
It is not easy to be chosen or to agree to participate in an event which stirs such complex thoughts and feelings within oneself and others. Yet, I believe that those that participated upheld their cherished values while supporting the profession they aspire to and love.”