Art therapists pedal into town and
bring out meaning
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[September 20, 2014]
LINCOLN - On a dark and stormy Monday
afternoon, Holly Wherry and Robert Caswell rode their bicycles into
Lincoln. The duo is on a mission. Beginning in Holly’s hometown of
Lime Springs, Iowa, the couple plan to end their adventure in
Robert’s hometown of New Orleans, with the mission of bringing art
to the communities they visit along the way, and to spread the
concept of art therapy.
Art therapy is one of the tools that professionals can use to
help people deal with their emotional difficulties. It is helpful
when an adult or child cannot express their feelings verbally. They
are encouraged to do art under the guidance of certified art
therapist who helps their client interpret what they put on paper.
Starting on August 22, the duo began their bicycle trek, but made a
big detour to Chicago to visit friends, classmates and professors at
the Art Institute of Chicago. Now they are edging closer to the
Mississippi River on Route 66, and a more direct route to the
Crescent City. Calling themselves the “Art Therapy Pedalers,” Holly
and Robert hope to encourage people they meet along the way to think
about art, and try their hand at making art. “Everyone is an artist,
and making art feels good,” said Robert.
Holly and Robert met while working on their master degrees in art
therapy at the Art Institute of Chicago. “I had been a classroom
teacher in New York City for three years, but knew I wanted to try
something different,” said Holly. She and Robert were both doing art
before attending the Art Institute, so combing their love of art
with therapy and counseling seemed a natural progression for them.
After graduating, they moved to New Orleans and began using their
art therapy knowledge to assist the residents coping with the post
Hurricane Katrina stress. After spending six years in New Orleans,
they moved to India for a year to teach art to children and women.
“There is a lack of personal expression among women in India, and we
hoped our art therapy backgrounds could help them express their
feelings,” said Holly.
After moving back home from India, Robert and Holly came up with the
concept of their Iowa to New Orleans art adventure. They did a crowd
sourcing appeal on ‘Kick Starter’ and were successful in achieving
With two bicycles, one of which pulls their “treasure chest” of art
supplies in a bike trailer, the two set out on their journey. They
are deliberately sticking to country roads and small towns. “Small
towns seem to have less access to art,” said Robert. “The people we
have met have been very generous and welcoming,” he added.
Their travels through small town America has also left them with
a more flexible schedule. Sometimes they camp in a tent they carry.
They have held art workshops in shelters at camp grounds for the
children of fellow travelers, one during a downpour. More often,
they find other long distance bike riders who are willing to share
their homes and provide a soft bed, a meal, and a hot shower. There
is even a website that they check called www.warmshowers.com that
matches cross-country bicycle riders with those willing to host
them. That is what they are doing in Lincoln.
During a stop in Bloomington at a bicycle shop to hold an art making
session, a man they met just happened to mention that they should
stop in Lincoln at the Lincoln Art Institute.
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After a harrowing ride from Bloomington to Lincoln
in a thunderstorm, and a stop for shelter at the Lawndale grain
elevator, the two arrived at the Lincoln Art Institute on the square
in Lincoln. LAI artistic director Moses Pinkerton welcomed them, and
insisted they bring their bikes into the art gallery.
After a moment to relax and shed their rain gear, Holly and Robert
held a two hour art fest with the folks who had gathered. Holly
gathered the children around her to make and discuss art, while
Robert encouraged the adults to grab art supplies and get started on
anything they wanted to make.
Art supplies were dug out of the “treasure chest” and passed around.
As each person worked on their art, Robert and Holly asked questions
about what the person had in mind for their creation.
In his quiet and laid back manner, Robert elicited ideas from the
participants about the meaning of the art they were creating, many
of those ideas surprising the budding artists. The phrase “I never
thought of that” was heard more than once. It was an example of art
therapy in action.
One of the unique aspects of the “Art Therapy Pedalers” trip is the
rolling mural that Holly and Robert are creating during the trip. At
each stop, they have people add a personal touch to a long scroll
that documents in art their trip. The rolling mural will be
displayed in New Orleans. Moses Pinkerton drew a rendering of his
“Cow in the Corn” sculpture that is in the Busby-Turner Park along
Sangamon Street in Lincoln.
The Art Therapy Pedalers have a Face Book page and a website so the
people they meet along the way can keep up with their travels. These
Pied Pipers of art hope to make their destination by November. But
as they both admit, weather and must do side trips to meet
interesting people and make art with them, as they did at the
Lincoln Art Institute, keep them flexible.
Holly Wherry and Robert Caswell began their travels again on Tuesday
departing Lincoln under sunny skies.
[By CURT FOX]
Art Therapy Pedalers