3 Questions with Dana Hillebrand

3 Questions with SVA MPS Art Therapy Alum Dana Hillebrand, BFA, MPS, LCAT-LP
Dana Hillebrand, a recent MPS Art Therapy graduate at SVA, will be a featured panelist at the ReelAbilities Film Festival screening held at the Bellevue Hospital Saul Farber Auditorium on Friday March 9, 2018. Bellevue staff and outpatient clients will sit on the panel as well. Film screenings include ‘The Barber of Augusta” directed by Michèle Hozer, and 2018 Oscar winning “Heaven is a Traffic Jam of the 405” directed by Frank Stiefel. The screening begins at 1pm, with the panel following at 2:30 to 3pm. This event is free and open to the public. There is NO reservation needed, but seating is on a first come, first serve basis.

Dana Hillebrand on the ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, a showcase of award-winning films by and about people with disabilities:

Can you explain what the event is about and why this type of discussion is needed within the art therapy community?
The ReelAbilities Film Festival is dedicated to promoting awareness of the struggles, strengths, and stories of people dealing with mental illness and disabilities. This kind of project was created in effort to increase the discussion about mental illness and disabilities via a medium most people engage in and enjoy everyday. The festival screens films by and about the marginalized population in various venues around a hosting city. New York City and Bellevue Health + Hospitals is an annual participant in the festival. The post-screening panel discussions, that I will be participating in, bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, understand, and celebrate the diversity of its members and leaders in the mental health awareness field. Two independent short films with be screened this year at Bellevue Health + Hospital’s event, one that was nominated for a 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. Both films are brilliant, tender, emotional, and inspiring.

This type of event is supported and at times facilitated by the Creative Arts Therapy field because it exemplifies the therapeutic empowerment that non-verbal and creative expression can provide. These public screenings also promote awareness within the families and communities of those struggling with mental illness or disabilities to deepen the support network needed to care for one another. The field of Creative Art Therapy as a whole should work together to prioritize and support public awareness events like the ReelAbilities festival to empower those in any form of need. This festival is just one great example of an event that the public can participate in for enjoyment and growth, and become one more voice that may respond more sensitively to the needs of those with mental illness and disability within their communities.

How has your training at SVA prepared you for this type of work?
My education at SVA prepared me to appreciate and promote public exhibition as an incredible tool and opportunity for marginalized populations to gain a voice. The annual exhibition that SVA facilitates with the students’ internship sites gives a voice to people who may have never had the opportunity to share their struggles with the public and actually receive a response in return. Through modeling and guidance from the staff and administration at SVA, I gained the agency needed to advocate for the Creative Arts Therapy field as well as its clients and patients.

What do you hope the community takes away from this event?
My hope is that the conversation facilitated by the screening and panel discussion might give the community some insight beyond the basic understanding that media and Hollywood portray as those with mental illness or disability. Films like Psycho, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs, and Split not only give an inaccurate and bleak picture of those illnesses but it exacerbates and propagates the public’s misconception and stigma of the population. This not only continues to isolate and marginalize those struggling with mental illness and disability, but it denies and ignores the important and crucial emotional needs and support that the population requires in order to thrive and be empowered within their community.

For more information about the ReelAbilities Film Festival and other films being showcased through the event, please visit: reelabilities.org/newyork

Interview conducted by MPS Art Therapy student KasMone’ Williams (Class of 2019).

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