Neff Endowed Memorial Lectureship advances art therapy at Wayne State

Art therapy workshop

For more than 40 years, the College of Education at Wayne State University has offered courses in art therapy, a field that seeks to improve mental health through therapeutic, creative experiences. Today, Wayne State’s art therapy program is one of 37 accredited programs of its kind in the country and the only one in Michigan.

The program recently hosted the Art Therapy Spring Symposium, drawing students, alumni, faculty members and professionals together to network, share ideas and develop professional identity.

In her opening remarks, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator Holly Feen traced the development of the art therapy profession in Michigan, examining the important role of Wayne State in elevating the practice in metro Detroit and around the state.

“Art therapy helps people and communities attend to social issues, giving people needed avenues for self-expression,” Feen said. “It’s exciting to see the past, present and future of art therapy at Wayne State together here in one room.”

Paula and Holly
Art therapy workshop

The event was made possible in part by funding from the Frederick C. Neff Endowed Memorial Lectureship in Philosophy and Education. The Neff Lectureship supports College of Education lectures that examine the moral nature of the educational system and the role of philosophy in solving educational problems. 

Neff joined the College of Education faculty at Wayne State in 1959 and was one of the most highly regarded philosophers of education in the country. He served as a professor for 21 years, including 12 years as chair of the Department of History and Philosophy of Education. 

The lectureship bearing his name was created in 1996 with a generous gift from Pauline Bergener ’32, M.Ed. ’44, a fellow educator and friend of Neff’s. Since then, the Neff Lectureship has brought leading thinkers to Wayne State to discuss numerous topics including positive psychology, the relationship between race and education, and more.

The 2018 Neff Lecture was delivered by art therapist Paula Howie, who spoke about her decades of experience working with military families in the Washington D.C. area. 

“The Wayne State program is very well-thought-of because of Holly and the quality of students they attract,” said Howie, who teaches in the graduate art therapy programs of the School of the Visual Arts in New York, Florida State University, and George Washington University. 

Art therapy workshop
Art therapy workshop

“This is the first time I’ve been in Detroit. I thought it was terrific, and I’m glad they could bring me here to do this.” 

The symposium also provided opportunities for Wayne State students and other professionals to attend training and lead workshops based on their research and clinical work. Graduate student Liza Hinchey led a workshop on mindfulness and said the event offered important professional development with an opportunity for critical feedback.

“I wanted to come to this event because it's an opportunity to get in touch with other professionals. It’s like a mini conference with people from around Michigan,” Hinchey said. “I love teaching people who aren't in this field, but it's nice to present to peers who can provide input.” 

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