Graduate Student Jessica McGhee ’19 Finds Passion and Purpose in Creative Arts Therapy

Jessica McGhee is not a human getting who is very easily outlined.

portrait of Jessica McGhee smiling against the backdrop of some greenery

Jessica McGhee ’19

Her resume would reveal a 2019 B.F.A. receiver from the School of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), a current graduate pupil in VPA’s art treatment method, an intern with a regional healthcare facility, an aspiring nonprofit chief, and a volunteer, instructor and arts programming coordinator with La Casita Cultural Center.

But she may possibly describe herself in different terms—as a lifelong artist, a individuals watcher, a witness and observer of magnificence, a survivor of personal companion violence and sexual trauma, and an adamant believer in the power of art treatment.

“I really like looking at the magnificence in men and women, and quite often they are not able to see it in by themselves. I feel like staying as I’m ready to see it, it’s my task to connect it,” McGhee states.

An artist from a young age, she is mainly a painter of surrealist landscapes, frequently designed with mixed medias and on content that would usually be disposed of. Her operate, with titles like “Roots,” “Mother Solar,” “Self-Actualization” and “On Coexistence,” evokes spirituality, connection to nature, self-expression, exploration of race and the prevalence of inner power.

“My artwork has often attempted to show persons their price, the complexity of life, the complexity of existence in this physical area,” she says.

mixed media painting titled "On Coexistence" by Jessica McGhee

“On Coexistence” (mixed media on wood) by Jessica McGhee (Picture courtesy of the artist)

Artwork as a Therapeutic Intervention

Possibly it was destiny that in 2019, the calendar year McGhee graduated with a B.F.A., VPA introduced the launch of its M.S. application in artwork therapy, housed in the Division of Creative Arts Therapy. She was intrigued by the software and ultimately became element of its to start with cohort of learners, starting in the Slide 2021 semester.

McGhee states the method puts terminology and principle to what she felt she was previously doing via her imaginative pursuits.

“Before I begun the application, I sense I was performing artwork remedy with myself—but not totally comprehension what was coming out,” she states. “I generally learned a lot from my artwork and my innovative investigation, but being in the program ties all the things together and makes a ton of perception.”

At the moment, McGhee puts principle into exercise as an intern with a area hospital’s inpatient substance use ailment unit. She built and facilitates a 28-day art treatment method that complements other remedy modalities for folks with alcoholic beverages and substance use disorders.

Her purchasers acquire help as they stabilize, construct self-worthy of and uncover self-forgiveness, all vital to the restoration procedure, by principles of art therapy. “I educate about symbolism and metaphor, and it will come as a result of in their artwork in approaches that are so insightful,” McGhee states.

Dependent on her belief that substance use disorders are normally a maladaptive reaction to trauma, McGhee emphasizes the value of self-expression in healing and hopes to encourage others to obtain their function by artwork therapy.

“Once an individual can enable go of all of the suffering and soreness and basically start off to investigate and get curious about their possess pursuits, which is when self-actualization comes to participate in,” she says.

Broadening her do the job over and above the clinic location, McGhee holds a number of roles with La Casita Cultural Center, including volunteering with an Arts as Mindfulness group run by fellow art therapy student Bennie Guzman. The plan is for older people to delight in a house for creativity and self-reflection, make on community, regulate tension and produce their artistic expression.

“I instruct unique coping expertise, meditation, strengths-centered exercises and imaginative investigation into the self,” McGhee says. She is at present planning a local community treatment workshop on April 3 at the Community People Artwork Center.

Integrative Modalities

Whilst artwork remedy is her major concentration, McGhee incorporates other healing modalities into her perform with purchasers and in the community.

Affected by the principles of somatic therapy—which draws connections among feelings and the place they are professional in the actual physical body—she incorporates ideas of vipassana (a Buddhist meditation approach), entire body scans, nature-dependent therapy and strengths assessments (she is fond of the Through Survey of Character Strengths).

She clarifies that our emotional memories, significantly memories of traumatic origin, tend to be stored in the component of our mind that is non-verbal, or in the entire body, and surface area afterwards by way of these non-verbal realms—so practices that get us out of our brains and much more connected to our bodies can enable.

“All of those thoughts and emotions, anything which is heading on within of you, all of that nonverbal suffering… you can externalize it,” McGhee claims. “In converse treatment, frequently you can re-working experience the instant, and it can be re-traumatizing each and every time you provide it out of your mouth. But if you’re putting it on paper as it feels inside of of you, then you’re basically exercising these feelings. You are examining them, you are investigating them, but you are not reprocessing that precise second of trauma.”

Therapeutic Works on Exhibit

Before this 12 months, McGhee was invited to demonstrate her artwork at the University’s 38th Once-a-year Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration as element of the inaugural art exhibition held in the Club 44 VIP lounge in the JMA Wireless Dome.

“Never experienced I imagined I would be a section of a thing so big and so incredible,” she says of the practical experience, noting how surreal it was for her to see her artwork exhibited on the JMA Dome’s large videoboards. McGhee curated nine primary functions for the celebration, which welcomed around 2,000 learners, college, employees and community users on Jan. 22.

The celebration was envisioned as a way for members to celebrate the richness of Syracuse’s culture and attractiveness, in reflection of the theme of this year’s MLK Celebration, “Civil Rights and the Metropolis of Syracuse.” McGhee exhibited together with fellow artists David R. MacDonald, Jaleel Campbell and Vanessa Johnson. Two parts exhibited—“Self Actualization” (blended media on a wood triptych) and “Rebirth” (mask)—were made as response art to her therapeutic perform.

Jessica McGhee and attendees of the MLK Celebration's art exhibition stand together viewing a piece of artwork

McGhee connects with a neighborhood member at the 2023 MLK Celebration in Club 44 of the JMA Wireless Dome. (Image by Amelia Beamish)

“I was honored to be a section of the exhibition—it made me experience really wonderful,” McGhee claims.

In the Works: Nonprofit Local community Retreat Center

On graduating from the art therapy system upcoming Could, McGhee has aspirations to launch a Syracuse-based mostly nonprofit offering choice therapy expert services in a retreat-based mostly setting to trauma survivors, no matter of their skill to pay back. She and business enterprise husband or wife Azra Gradincic have started laying the groundwork to bring this dream to fruition.

The nonprofit, tentatively named SOAR, will offer inclusive access to integrative, holistic therapeutic. Their ambition is to remove the money limitations that generally accompany retreat-design therapeutic options by featuring a sliding-scale or free monetary product, even though also accepting Medicaid, Medicare and personal insurance plan.

“I see a secure environment the place people can recover and rebuild and have devoted split time, when they aren’t striving to survive their day-to-working day lifetime, but can truly concentration on their particular demands and therapeutic,” McGhee suggests.

Artist Jessica McGhee poses with her painting, "Lexical Priming" at the 2023 MLK Celebration art exhibition in the JMA Wireless Dome

McGhee with her painting “Lexical Priming” (blended media on wooden) at the 2023 MLK Celebration. (Photo by Angela Ryan)

To study much more about McGhee, check out Her operate is at this time on display at Redhouse Arts Middle (400 S. Salina St., Syracuse), Monday by Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and she designs to exhibit at La Casita afterwards this spring.

Kenneth Proto

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