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Marney Schorr
Teaching Artist & Art Therapist

Art House Blog

We Are Never Alone Where There is Art

Posted by Marney Schorr on February 29, 2016 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (1)


I am so grateful to have an art studio in the Berkshires. I have found my spot here in Pittsfield to be more of a home than I could have imagined. Just showing up and responding to inquiries from the community - this somehow has transformed what I do. I think I may have to add Community Arts Organizer to my resume now. I simply sit and make art with people and share ideas, and it changes lives. How did I get so lucky?  It feels like I get to wave a magic wand, and a colorful one at that.

I see people struggling, suffering, just trying to get by all the time. And art fills their souls. Even for just an hour, I see it makes a difference. People go from feeling victimized to having a unique sense of control. Art reinforces meaning and enrichment in their lives. A glimmer of spirit returns. Something to build upon. A good start.

There has been some debate lately about what art therapists do and other kinds of visionaries that offer similar support. I am tired of the bureacracy of the professional art therapy organizations lacking inclusiveness. So much division, so much fear.

I am disappointed when the powers that be miss the mark about the general picture. Art helps people and you can't put limitations on it. You can try to tell people what they cannot do with art. But its like trying to license what people eat. Creativity is that basic of a human need. Reptilian brains drawing on cave walls.

I appreciate the so many talented art therapists that get through rigorous Masters programs and adhere to professional ethics. We need them. But we should call for a wider frame and a collaboration with all types of creatives in our practice. It's a wonderful, growing field but has become overly rigid and some are turned off to it. These voices matter too.

I would say this rigidity has only served to incite a humanistic artist revolution. Artists don't like being told what to do. And so they are out there, doing good work, helping people instead of isolated at home, seeking fame and greed. I am proud of this change. Can we please find a way to honor it rather than being afraid?

We are never alone where this is art. And there is room for everyone.

This post is dedicated to the following non-art therapists who are rocking our community: Nathan Hanford and the great work he is doing at Soldier On;  Ghazi Khami and Leo Mazzeo at The Whitney for building bridges to local groups through the arts, Megan Whilden at OLLI for her open-minded creative vision; Ellen Merritt for using art to combat societal ills at the Christian Center, Jamie Badore for the healing energy he puts into our art world, Mary McGuiness for widening boundaries and getting us all on board; and to the people at the Pittsfield Cultural Council for making new ideas possible.

Wrong Planet Syndrome!

Posted by Marney Schorr on July 17, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I am reading Peter Vermeulen's 'Autistic Thinking - This is the Title' which is giving me a plain insight that I have craved working with youngsters with autism.

I feel compelled to share about it all this evening.

I am not on the autistic spectrum and yet I relate in many respects. I genuinely get confused by the game of language I hear every day. I just don't get people alot of times.

Francesca Happe writes that people with autism spectrum disorders often describe their experience of life as being like on an alien planet. He even calls it Wrong Planet Syndrome! He says:

[non-autistic folk] "often talk about the difficulty people with autism have in understanding the intricacies and nuances of the social world, and the mistakes that are made. But it is clear that the failure of understanding can go both ways. We have no idea what it is to see the world through the eyes of autism...we offend the logic of the autistic mind, we confuse with indirect and non-literal langage, we exasperate with our unpredictability."

Whew! That's enough of a language game to confuse anyone whether we nod our heads and pretend we understand or not.

Most of my friends are 'different'. And let's face it. They are more original than those 'normal' people I find boring. Yes I too, prefer Wrong Planet Syndrome.

I have arged that society is threatened by such originality but would be better to open the door to it. If society changed, special needs would be special gifts.

I was moved today by a young man who shined like a wildflower on an ordinary summer day. He got me smiling, laughing and being amazed at his simple organization of the creative endeavor I planned.

I whipped out my format camera and he took to it instantly. We took photos of the outdoors and printed them and then mounted them on large oak tag.

Then came the watercolor paints. He spontaneously chose two colors and started painting, unprompted, like a famous virtuoso. Gentle! I proclaimed. Afterall, only I can ruin my brushes. 

We shared a passion for color and paint. My spirit soared.

So we took it back to the computer. Words on a screen took the form of dialogue which took the form of a poem. Colors and photos of summertime - translated into language. His language.

It all happened so fast I took a backseat in my art therapist role and sat watching as an inspired spectator.

And so here is the simple, organized, literal, rhythmic and poetic words my auti friend shared with his personal art:

Blue garden and red garden

Outside at hang out

Run walk jump skip

Lay down on the hammock

Swimming in the pool

I would say fire pit

What would you say?

I say rocks

Paint a picture.

Art In the Kitchen

Posted by Marney Schorr on July 11, 2014 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (1)

Years ago I taught my six year old niece that artists are not afraid to 'get their hands dirty'. She went on to tell all her friends and really enjoyed digging into paints. Some play teacher, some play doctor. She played 'artist'.

I would help her put her long thick brown hair in a bun and double tie the strings on her smock. That was all she needed to get started, well that, pink paint and some sparkles. She loved running over to me when she had completed a picture, her little hands covered in sand and paint and glue and glitter.  It's hard to believe she turns 11 this week. How proud we both are to be able to work in my Pittsfield studio, getting our hands dirty and letting loose.

But not everyone is down with making a mess. And while I had always assumed the bigger the mess, the happier the artist, I am wrong. Being an artist comes from an individual expression of aesthetic. For some it is neat squares, mechanical pencil drawings, videos and cameras, short films, or a dance routine. For others, clay from the bottom of a pond.

This week I began some art therapy with a new client - a sweet and warm blue-eyed teen who happens to be on the autism spectrum. I intended to teach him something about art, and instead he taught me.

Like my niece this young man is generally optimistic and easy to be around. And like my niece, he also loves to cook. I left my paints in their bins and tried something else. Instead of playing artist, we played 'Chef'.

I spent some time creating a three part art therapy plan based on integrated play principles I learned from a great source called Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum: The Art of Guiding Children's Socialization and Imagination.


We expanded his love of cooking into an entire restaurant experience. I adapted each step into a plan, where we could model a restaurant experience, take pictures, design a menu, go to the supermarket and dine out at a local eatery. I started with three skill-based categories. Here are some examples:

Play Domain: Symbolic Representation

Type of play:  Sensory, Functional & Pretend Play

Goal-based Activities: Cut out pictures of food from magazines; Look at foods in a cookbook or magazine; Sound out names for a Restaurant; Identify 3 favorite foods; Construct a recipe; Make a shopping list; Choose a restaurant name that is personal; Choose a design/symbol for a menu or take a pic for a menu.


Play Domain: Social Dimension

Type of Play:  Orienting, On-looking, Parallel Play, Common Focus/Goals

Goal-based Activities: Observing other shoppers in the supermarket; Shopping alongside others in the supermarket; Getting on line to buy groceries; Checking out at store



Fried chicken with broccoli salad, the big blue burger with fries and of course, chocolate ice cream sandwiches for dessert. All being cooked for a delicious artful dining experience with family and friends.

Art can be messy or it can be neat. And it can taste good too!

If you'd like some more info on this, please e-mail me!