Two of the Safe Spaces curators, SVA MPS Art Therapy alumni Leslie Achitoff and Rob Belgrod, arranged gallery tours of the exhibition for SVA students. First year MPS Art Therapy student Jenny Asaro describes her experience of the gallery tour here:
While art is always up for interpretation, the interpretation of an outsider is inevitably less insightful than that of an insider. This was exemplified in the gallery tour given by Rob Belgrod, as he provided insight into the artwork of his clients at Rikers Island. Prior to the gallery tour, I had been moved by the concept of showcasing the artwork of inmates at the prison. The act of bringing personal artwork to the public sphere speaks to the empowerment of a population which is disempowered by the nature of their situation. The work in this show, and the art therapy sessions which precluded it, focused on visual representation of a safe space.
What I gathered from Rob’s description of the clients’ artwork is that many of the people who end up at Rikers Island have not had a safe space for the majority of their lives. This includes the time prior to their imprisonment, as illustrated in one client’s drawing of a safe space as a mother’s womb. For another client, the safe space was a blurry memory of a moment in childhood. Most strikingly, a group of clients depicted their safe space as the prison itself, illuminating the danger of their lives outside of their incarceration. I was moved to hear the reality of working with those who are incarcerated, which Rob graciously described in response to the tour participants’ questions. He spoke of his clients with respect and care, which I take as proof of the strength of their therapeutic alliance. Hearing the stories of an art therapist in the prison setting and seeing the art produced by those who are incarcerated brought a sense of connection and inspiration. This gallery show demonstrated the power of art therapy when used with what is generally viewed as a difficult population.
The exhibition is on view until October 26, 2017. Email [email protected] for viewing times.