Necessary components

WRITTEN BY BRITTANY GARRETT, STAFF REPORTER

Senior Kaylin Beckwith is combining her passions to make a difference in the lives of children, one piece of artwork at a time.

Beckwith’s senior honors thesis project, “Improving Mood in Grieving Children: An Analysis of Necessary Components,” takes her love for art and mixes it with psychology to explore the effects of art therapy on children.

Beckwith’s thesis culminated in a series of drawings produced by young children. The drawings are currently on display at the Jordan College Annex Gallery, and is the first charity fundraiser held there.The drawings will be auctioned off at a later date. It is also the first Annex exhibition of an honors thesis project.

Beckwith, a psychology major, said a lack of insight into this idea prompted her to make this her project.

“In the past ten years, only five studies have been effectively conducted about art therapy,” Beckwith said. “That’s one of the main reasons why I started this project.”

To accomplish her goal of investigating the role of art therapy in improving the moods of grieving children, she first looked to Brooke’s Place, the organization she’s been volunteering at for the past four years.

Brooke’s Place is a non-profit community organization that provides support and services to grieving children and families. Beckwith worked with a group of 54 children, each of whom had either lost a sibling or parent.

After working with individuals from this organization for the past few years, Beckwith began to explore methods for increasing happiness in these children.

“I developed a study to evaluate the components of effective art therapy by comparing (the effects of) art to (the effects of) other psychomotor activity, (like) puzzles and social interaction,” Beckwith said.

The children in her study were split into four groups. Two groups were asked to draw happiness. In one of those groups, the children worked on the project individually, while in the other group, they collaborated.

The other two groups worked on puzzles. As before, one group’s members were asked to complete the activity individually while the other group’s worked with partners to finish.

Before and after each exercise, the children were given “mood scale” tests, which required each child to circle a number representing the level of happiness experienced.

Overall, the study showed more positive feelings after the activities.

Breaking it down, individual works resulted in happier moods than collaborative exercises, and drawings created more happiness among the children than solving puzzles.

The most important part of the conclusion was individuality, said Beckwith.

“This shows support for how art has an important positive effect on an individual,” Beckwith said.

“It’s a very interesting question,” said art professor Steve Nyktas. “The basic question on whether art has an impact in therapeutic ways already says something special about creativity.”

Guatam Rao, art professor and exhibition attendee, said he had a different opinion than the children when it came to the exercises.

“The puzzle was definitely my favorite and really fun,” Rao said. “But in all seriousness, I think it’s all very good that she’s been working with this non-profit organization for the past four years.”

Elizabeth Mix, Art + Design chair and Beckwith’s adviser for this project, agreed with the importance of the inner drive seen in the process.

“I think it’s great when a student follows a passion and finds that balance between a duel interest,” Mix said.

Mix said she does not feel the balance was difficult for Beckwith to find.

“The best word to describe her process is natural,” Mix said. “It just all came to her in a very natural way.”

Some audience members noticed this combination of passions too.

“I like how the art work integrates both of her interests,” Jasmine Gansalves, a junior Art + Design major, said. “I also think it’s really neat that the physical pieces are hers but not necessarily done by her.”

She refers to the drawings the children produced depicting “happiness.” Hung on the walls of the Annex Gallery, they will later be offered at auction.

The children’s drawings ranged from smiling people to one stick-boy yelling, “It’s hump day!”

Beckwith said that the boy had just learned the alternative phrase for Wednesday and was very excited to draw himself with this new knowledge.

“I think they’re at that age where everything new is exciting,” Rao said on the hump day piece. “Perhaps that’s what made this study work even that much better.”

Beckwith said proceeds of the silent auction go to Brooke’s Place, which she described as “an amazing organization and something very close to my heart.”

The artwork of “Improving Mood in Grieving Children: An Analysis of Necessary Components” will continue hanging in the Annex Gallery until Nov. 15, and further donations to Brooke’s Place will be accepted in person or through its website, www.brookesplace.org.

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