Art as a Medium: When Words Are Not Enough

by Nicole Haberl
Social Work / Art
Faculty advisor: Kathryn McKinley and Mary Mello-Nee

The Problem: I needed experience working with a specific population for my capstone experience.

Method: I chose to work with people with mental and physical challenges because I had little experience with this population and I wanted to increase my cultural competence with this population, increase my knowledge of art as a means of working with people, combine social work and art in a real life practical application, and serve people in the community, and network for future collaboration between Buena Vista University and the community agency. I led a weekly group using consumer directed art to provide opportunities for creative self-expression and individual choice. I practiced the social work skills of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation both with individuals and with the group as a whole.

Outcomes: I gained the experience of working with a specific population: how to apply the social work skills; how to assist the group to work together on projects; how to develop and organize the group experience for the participants; how to work with a community agency.The participants increased their knowledge of art and their use of various art mediums. They gained confidence through the opportunity to express themselves without being directed specifically of what to do.

This project strengthened the relationship between Buena Vista University and the local agency as needs of both organizations were met and resources of each organization were used to assist the other. I hope that this relationship can continue.