Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Annie Rose McGrath

Mentor: Christopher Engel

Title: The Power of Art: The Journey of Self Discovery

Description: My Senior Project consisted of two parts. In July I traveled to Zanzibar, Tanzania where I worked with an organization called African Impact.  There I set up a series of art project that I did with the children from a local nursery school. After my two-week stay of observing them I traveled back home. I then wrote a paper on Art Therapy and the benefits of children expressing themselves through art In my paper I included my personal experience as well as interviews from local art therapists and the general research of the field. I presented my paper in the form of a book that I designed myself using a program called BookSmart. I complimented it with the images from Tanzania taken by myself, Veronica Montemarano and Taylor Montemarano.


Final Paper

Sample Pages (p. 15, p. 22, p. 28)

The idea behind my Senior Project began shortly after I traveled to Mozambique for M-term in March 2008. It was that trip that inspired me so much that I wanted to return to Africa as soon as possible. After much begging and pleading Taylor Monte and her mom Ronni planned to go back to Tanzania in July 2008. Knowing that I would be working with children in an undersupplied nursery school I wanted to bring something I could do with the children that they had not been previously exposed to. ThatŐs when I had the idea of bringing specific art projects for each day that I could do with them. I knew that all mediums such as paints, crayons, and glue, would all be materials that they had never had any contact with, so observing the as they expressed themselves in this new way seemed like a interested idea to me. I then had the idea of educating myself in the field of Art Therapy and the benefits of children expressing themselves through art. Originally I thought I would bring the artwork back from Africa and curate and exhibit a show of their work. I had to raise money for my trip so I sent out a letter to my friends and family explaining what I was doing and asking for donations which was a complete success. I raised enough money to pay for the majority of my trip and buy supplies.

The trip could not have gone any smoother. We spent our too short, two weeks in Zanzibar, which was honestly the most beautiful place I had ever traveled to. Working with the children however brought some challenges for me. The language barrier was one of my main struggles. With the children only speaking Swahili and not having sufficient English I had to explain all my projects through example. Also working with children ages 4-7 was sometimes difficult. Their small attention spans and lack of interest sometimes left me with only a few doing my planed activities and others just running around. Time was also a challenge I had to overcome while in Zanzibar since I was only to be there for two weeks. I could hence not always set up a project for each class or didnŐt have enough time to finish a project in one day.

            When I got back from Africa I had some changes to make to my senior project. While there the children had asked me if they could keep their work, so I of course said yes, but then didnŐt have anything to exhibit when I got home. ThatŐs when I was suggested the idea of making a book in which I would include photographs from my trip and my paper on Art Therapy, its benefits with children, and my experience of working with the children I did in Africa. With Mr. Chris as my mentor, he helped me find my two outside consultants: Sue Lichtenstein and Dennis Gaboury. Sue is a local art therapist who had worked with children for years and was extremely helpful in giving me sources and sharing her experiences with working with children. Dennis is the founder of ZimKids an organization in Zimbabwe, which teaches orphans how to create dolls that they can later sell for the supplies, which they need. Dennis was extremely helpful since he understood what it was like to work with underprivileged kids and how internally fulfilling it can be. Next I had to work on writing my paper and editing my photos for the book. With help from Kerry Sharkey-Miller I was able to acquire the skills needed to use Adobe Photoshop and color correct each image. Next I had to become familiar with BlurbŐs BookSmart software which was what I would be using to layout my book. I ordered my first book on December 5th that only contained pictures so I could make sure the color profile was the correct one.

More challenges arose with working with BookSmart. Every five minutes the program would unexpectedly quit. Most of the time it would auto-save, but sometimes it wouldnŐt and I would have to go back and re-add photos or edit text. Another challenge was reaching my outside consultants. Sue had a busy schedule between seeing patients and being with family, and having to e-mail Dennis in Zimbabwe meant that not all e-mails went through. My last challenge was time management. Even thought I told myself I would get everything done early and finish my Senior Project with time to spare, I didnŐt. Although I made all my deadlines and was on time with blogging, I still ended up writing the majority of my paper over winter break. I then had to worry about getting my book in time for the gallery opening, which I luckily did.

My future plans are still to be determined. Although I donŐt think I will go to college to study Art Therapy I am not considering it as a possible minor. I think the knowledge gained from learning about it could help me in the future if I decide to continue working with kids. I want to return to Africa and soon as possible and imagine myself doing so everyday. Perhaps I could study there for a semester during college. I want to continue volunteering and doing humanity work as well; it will always remain hobby for me. This project was an amazing experience for me in so many ways. I got to incorporate something I love to do with a new field that I had previously known nothing about. I also learned that I could master new programs, edit digital photographs, and design appealing book layouts. Although grueling at times, this project was very fun for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I want to thank Chris Engel for being such a great mentor, he kept me motivated and dealt with my occasional laziness. I also want to thank Devon Parkes, Kerry Sharkey-Miller, Sue Lichtenstein, Dennis Gaboury and Jen Cross for their help and input on my project. Thanks to Mom and Dad for letting this all happen, and Taylor and Ronni Monte for being my co-travelers and understanding the experience of Tanzania like no one else. Lastly I want to thank Ross School for giving me firstly my chance to go to Mozambique and secondly for letting students engage in such educational experiences.

Works Cited

American Art Therapy Association: Welcome to The American Art Therapy Association. 03 Nov. 2008 <>.

Bettes, Donna. Art Therapy. 03 Feb. 2009 <>.

Junge, Maxine B., and Paige P. Asawa. A History of Art Therapy in the United States. New York: American Art Therapy Association, 1994.

Landgarten, Helen B. Clinical Art Therapy: A Comprehensive  Guide. Pennsylvania: Brunner/Mazel, 1981.

McNiff, Shawn. Art as Medicine: Creating a Therapy of the Imagination. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1992.

Naumburg, M. (1966). Dynamically oriented art therapy: Its principles and practice. New York, NY: Grune & Stratton. [Reprinted in 1987. Chicago, IL: Magnolia Street]

Rose, Margery D. Childhood Revealed: Art Expressing Pain, Discovery & Hope. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1999.

Volunteer in Africa - Volunteer Work in Africa - Gap Year Africa Volunteering. 03 Nov. 2008 <>.

Community Member (Details)

My outside consultants were Sue Lichtenstein and Dennis Gaboury. Sue is a local art therapist and met with me to discuss how she works with her patients and how she feels art therapy is beneficial to children. She also provided me with many of the sources I used for my paper. Dennis is the founder of ZimKids. This foundation, located in Zimbabwe, works with orphaned children and teaches them how to make dolls, which are then sold and used to buy necessary supplies for the children.