Hi there. My name’s Ava Menchu, and I’m in my third year in the Art Therapy master’s program here at Lewis and Clark. I grew up making art, loving it and being creative in any way I could, but then I got older and scared, so I stopped. Then one day I came back to it when I needed it and since then it has guided me, helping heal me. My own art practice then led me to discovering Art Therapy, which is what brought me here. As I am now in my final year here, I’m doing my internship at a hospital on an inpatient psychiatric unit for anyone aged 18 and up. My patients are those who are in crisis, and I see a wide variety of diagnoses each day. This includes folks who are a danger to themselves or others, are psychotic, manic, depressed, and everything in between. They are either coming of their own volition, are on a hospital hold, under guardianship, or from jail and so on. Therefore, my days are often long and emotional, and it can be a lot to hold. But I do love it, and I’m honored to have such vulnerable experiences with people I might only meet once. I function under a trauma-informed, humanistic, somatic, and DBT influenced therapeutic model. I also value the importance of being nonjudgmental, meeting the client where they are at, and helping others to see the light in themselves. I use my art to process my emotions, help me let go of some of the things I witness, and help me hold others dear. I have grown so much in my term working with this population, and the art you see here has allowed me to do that, by being my outlet, my holding space. Art has helped me understand myself better than anything, and each piece is a little reflection of who I am, all that I hold, and all that I need to let go.
It’s ironic my internship is in a hospital, I always said that was the one place I would never work. They always scared me a little, or a lot, and I didn’t want to feel that way every day. But then I found out about working in crisis, and I knew working in a hospital was a growth edge I needed to push. I love working in crisis, the fast pace, the change, the opportunities, but learning to work in a hospital is new for me. Since hospitals run within the medical model and are very structured, it’s been somewhat of a learning curve. I am messy, and my art is expressive and playful and loud, so I wasn’t sure at first how to integrate myself into something so structured. So, throughout the term, when we made art, I just allowed myself to play each week, never letting myself plan out what I was going to do, just looked at the supplies and chose what looked right. I let myself process my emotions, my successes, my failures, the hurts, and the joy in incredibly unstructured ways through it. This let me honor my messy unstructured artist, and find ways, and balance, to hold structure while letting my patients be unstructured. My large piece is a map of my site done by somewhat correct memory, with myself and my experiences painted over. When important moments happened, I marked it with whatever felt right, a bead, a sting, a flower, however it felt to me. This piece is a visual history of my best and worst moments, things that will haunt me and things that have built me into the therapist I am today. Alongside the map sits a bilateral scribble in the form of a face, which is a practice I used on site and off to do a quick emotional check in. I took a break from the map partway through, I think because it was feeling heavy, and I transitioned to gelli plate printing. I made so many, way more than are here, and then I decorated them. And it felt good. They are my moods, my momentary emotions, little ways of playing and feeling like myself. My art thrives to be loud and honor my wildness, my vulnerability, and as a friend said once, my art refuses to be ignored.