MFA Summer Residency Collaborates With Art Therapy Program

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A creative hands-on collaboration between Dominican University of California’s MFA in Creative Writing and PhD in Art Therapy programs connected students through poetry and collages.

This is the first time the two programs in the School of Liberal Arts and Education have collaborated during the annual MFA Summer Residency recently attended by 31 students on the Dominican campus.

“Dominican is such an idyllic campus. We hold summer writing workshops surrounded by lush green trees and gardens. There’s so much good energy among our students, so many creative voices and dynamic writers, you can’t help but be inspired and rejuvenated,” says Dr. Judy Halebsky, Director of Dominican’s MFA in Creative Writing program and its Residency Director.

“It takes pollination to help flowers grow and cross pollination to help ideas flow. The collaborative experiences between the MFA and Art Therapy doctoral students helped reinforce that art therapists don’t own the use of art, but we can help people understand its therapeutic power and potential,” says Lisa Hinz, Director of the Art Therapy program who led a creative process activity.

The Summer Residency also featured a keynote address by New York Times’ best-selling illustrator and graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton. Her focus is bringing together drawing, social work, and storytelling. During the pandemic she started “DrawTogether,” which offers free online art classes for children.

“We were humbled to hear about visual journalist Wendy MacNaughton’s generous use of art with children and adults,” Hinz says. “And the Imagery and Poetry workshop left us intrigued by visual collages that evoked the theme of summer and spellbound by verbal images of the season created by poetry.”

Dominican’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program combines a vibrant community of writers and dedicated faculty. Its residencies offer group workshops, tutorials, craft lectures, and readings designed to nourish writing skills and ambitions. These gatherings give students the opportunity to build a literary community with fellow writers and poets.

For last month’s MFA Summer Residency students and faculty met in Meadowlands Hall, Edgehill Mansion, Magnolia House and various classrooms throughout campus. They dined together at Caleruega Dining Hall and some students, faculty, and staff stayed in Edgehill Village during the 11-day residency.

“It was a wonderfully successful residency. We had more students at this residency than ever before,” Halebsky says.

 “Claudia Morales, Joan Baranow, Kim Culbertson, Marianne Rogoff led Writing Studios and were joined by two guest faculty; novelist Lee Kravetz and short story writer Hugh Behm-Steinberg,” she added.

“MFA alumni also joined us for sessions. Three of our sessions were open to the public. We had panels and readings on many topics including `Writing Time and Place’, `Haiku and the Longest Shortest Form’ which paired with a prose topic `Short/Long/Epic’ as well as a panel on `Bridging Private and Public.’”

The residency also included a trip to Muir Woods, an open mic at a local brewery, and student-hosted parties. 

“We celebrated our eight graduating students with a party in the Garden Room. We danced and ate cake. There was even a disco ball,” Halebsky says.

Halebsky said the writing that students do at the residency often becomes part of their thesis. She noted that one MFA student, Erika Trafton, from the winter residency wrote a poem that was broadcast on KQED. Another recent MFA alumna, Britta Esmail, teaches monthly writing workshops at Book Passage in Corte Madera. This fall, Britta will join the teaching artists faculty for Marin School of the Arts in Novato where she will be mentoring high school students in creative writing.

Dominican’s PhD Art Therapy Psychology program is one of only two such programs in the country. It attracts a diverse student body from throughout the United States and overseas. Graduates are contributing to the local, national, and international development and recognition of the profession, and are leaders in advancing the theoretical, research, and clinical foundations of Art Therapy. 

Ideal art therapy PhD students are interested in being stewards in the field of art therapy. Candidates are interested in generating new knowledge in the field, as well as developing a deeper knowledge of the integration of science and art. 

Even in these long summer days, the MFA program is looking ahead to the next residency, January 6-13, 2024, which will focus on “Writing as Transformation” and feature writers and editors that bridge literary publishing and community action. 

Photo above of Judy Halebsky (second from right) sitting with five MFA Summer Residency students during writing studio in Hunt Room in Edgehill Mansion.

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