See how one local artist is using her art therapy and fashion design skills to help people across the community.
Studies show, that for some people, art can be a stress reliever. The creative process offers many benefits, including helping people relax and work through problems to find a solution. This is the basis behind Karen Kurak’s personal experience and art therapy practice.
“I thought I’d Ike to spend my time showing people who don’t know how to access abilities they already have. I felt in the end this could be incredibly empowering. This is why I became an art therapist,” says Kurak, who grew up in the Cleveland area, but came to Cincinnati for her undergrad education, studying fine arts in the DAAP program.
“I give my mother lots of credit for letting me explore all kinds of different art materials and not minding if I made a mess in the process. That experimentation was among my best teachers,” she says.
Kurak chose a focus in fibers during her time at DAAP because she found them “alluring and beautiful.” It was through her own creative process that she discovered the principals of therapy, and that the creative process could be used to help others. She decided to complete her graduate degree at the University of Louisville to pursue a career in art therapy.
“As an art student trying to set goals for and work through the inevitable problems presented by an art assignment, creative process would show itself. The harder I tried to think my way through it, the farther away good resolution would slip, just like a mirage,” Kurak explains. “Every time I would loosen my grip, walk away from the canvas, take an illogical approach, listen to that small voice, follow the language of color, line or form, there it was. The solution that would appear was without fail, better by far than the often contrived, well thought out formula my left-brain was tying to design all by itself.”
Art therapy uses creative processes and art making to fulfill psychological and emotional needs. This can help foster self-expression, create coping skills, manage stress or strengthen confidence. Kurak says this kind of therapy has helped treat clients who have experienced trauma, grief, depression, major life changes, chronic illness and anxiety.
“It is important to state that being ‘good at art’ is not necessary to benefit from art therapy. Art-making takes place from within,” she says.
Through her own personal experience, Kurak says her own creative process helped her through personal, emotional or psychological issues.
“My experience of this creative space or creative dynamic was palpable and even felt magical at times. Creatives of every stripe know this space or state,” Kurak explains. “I knew that this experience was not mine alone, but must be universal. I figured that this must be an inherent human quality. If that were true, I felt it would be a worthy mission to show others how to engage it.”
In addition to art therapy, Kurak also makes and sells her own art, including woven blankets, scarves and wraps.
“I also do portraits on canvas with oil paints and collage with cloth, photography and fibers, sewing elements onto paper or canvas,” she says. “I hand dye and hand weave 100% cotton baby blankets, hand weave scarves and wraps and hand dye silk scarves and wraps.”