There is probably no promise of another M F Hussain or V Gaitonde in the making. No whizz ready to storm the citadels of art. Their combined output might not even win them a prize locally. But then, their art is very important to them as it makes them happy, keeps them alive, joyous, a kind of self-reflection if you will. These persons have, in fact, just been introduced to art therapist Tia Pleiman, who through her ‘create and transform’ workshops is upping the wellness and creative quotient in many lives.
At present living in a traditional Tamil village, near Puducherry, Tia, who came to India from the US in 2007, was in Chennai recently to conduct one such workshop, a community art therapy programme, at Apparao Galleries. Speaking about the same, Tia says, “Art therapy is the use of art and its participation in the creative process to learn different things, to cure different illnesses, to work with different problems, or even people with health problems. I use art as a creative process, as a means for personal self-expression. I use it in education, as a supplement to learning, to improve English literacy, inter-personal skills and team building skills.”
Art therapy, of course, conjures up different images of use and application. There’s also art psychotherapy which is completely different. Explains Tia: “There are different types of art therapists and different kinds of therapy. I am not into mental health. I don’t diagnose, analyse, interpret, judge or criticise. My role is of a facilitator, a guide, giving people opportunity to express themselves freely.”
And that is what is at the core of her workshops. She says her art is transformative; fostering wellness and keeping people happy and alive. It is for those using only half, the left side of their brain, a kind of a right brain workout. It involves creative problem solving and creative thinking and it is for those who give and give, but who don’t take care of themselves, says Tia, who holds two bachelor degrees (psychology and fine arts) and a Masters in art therapy. And never mind if art was a trying subject in school. It’s better she insists if one is not an artist.
What makes her workshops an elevating experience is that layer by layer she unveils for the participants, what they are finally going to learn and understand for themselves. It’s as Tia says, “a journey of self-discovery” with her guiding them, but never judging. “First there is the art making, then the journaling and the writing and finally sharing and verbalising. I make them write alongside drawings, questioning them about their work,” says the wellness pundit.
“It’s really fantastic what happens at these workshops,” she continues, before recounting her experience with a professional from Delhi who worked 100 hours a week and who was so inspired by the workshop that he volunteered to turn his home office into a studio. “From two to 94, I have covered almost all age-groups,” reveals Tia, who has more than 20 years experience to her credit.
Another area where Tia is able to apply her art is with children in an educational setting; she has worked with students in a village school, at an international school and an after school programme, bringing into play puppet making and doll making, (out of recycled materials), clay play, painting–engaging the body, mind and spirit.
Tia, who has her fingers in many pies, (workshop in Bangalore, Chennai, a nature camp, visit to a tribal village) has enriched many lives. And in the bargain she has grown. Of her Indian experience, she says she is in a perfect place at a perfect time with people highly receptive to her art.