Over the past few weeks I have come to learn more about Austin State Hospital, or ASH, and their various art programs and events. Since 1857 Austin State Hospital has provided psychiatric care to those with mental illnesses in Austin and the State of Texas. The hospital has a creative arts therapy program for current patients as well as a strategic plan to create a community Arts Space where individuals with mental illnesses can go to continue their healing process after being discharged through dance, visual arts, music and drama. This past Friday, I checked them out for myself. I had the pleasure of meeting with Bess Green, Art Therapist at ASH, and Susan Lee, an artist and current patient.
The creative arts therapy program is one of their most successful at ASH, and is centered on the idea that healing can happen not only through traditional therapy and medication but also through creativity and art. The Arts Space project, in its first phase of funding, hopes to be a continuance of the creative arst therapy program and stretch beyond current patients so as to stop the “revolving door scenario” of those recovering having to be hospitalized again. The Arts Space would be a place where artists like Susan would be able to come and use space to create their art not only as an outlet for healing but also to further themselves as professional artists.
Susan Lee, a published author and emerging artist has always seen art as a way to release pent-up energy and frustrations. She has also seen it as a way to connect with others when she cannot always say what she wants to verbally. Her art, for me, is delicate yet also strong with vibrant colors and solid line work. She says her favorite drawings to create are depictions of Jesus, a passion that can be seen in her drawings.
Ms. Lee’s book, Baphomet: The Apocalypse, which can be purchased at Amazon.com, is what she describes as a comedy tragedy. It is a story of her journey as a foster child struggling to find her way to enlightenment and the many dark people and places she encounters on the way.
“I met him on a sweet warm night, that vampire Brad. It was not that he drank of blood but that his empathy lavished in the power of auras. Many other maidens had been lured in by his reasons for conceit. I was one of them…Slick locks gowned his face to the brow, a sinister split in the middle…His piercing blue eyes are what made the best of him. They had known murder. “
– An excerpt from Baphomet: The Apocalypse, by Susan Lee
Susan started creating art at a very young age. She was always pushed by adults around her to draw, “instead of playing with dolls and toys like most other kids do, I was drawing”. Her usual medium is acrylic; however with constraints at the hospital, most of her current work is drawings and watercolors. Susan modestly describes her work as more cartoonish. I viewed it as refreshingly simplistic. Not simplistic as in lacking, but quite the opposite; complex because of its simplicity. While Susan’s current situation may not be her ideal, she looks at it with optimism and room for growth. Or in her words, “It is better to laugh than cry”.
More of Susan Lee’s work can be found on DeviantArt.com
To make a donation to the ASH Arts Space, creative arts therapy program, or other programs at ASH please click here.
Blog by Katie