Once more with healing

Amy Kuhns Roberts helps others heal through mindfulness, collaboration and uninhibited creativity.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted August 4, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

Amy Kuhns Roberts

If you ask Amy Kuhns Roberts, art therapy provides a way to convey emotions and experiences not easily expressed in words. 

“The objective is not about the final product; it is about healing through the process of making art,” she emphasized.

Roberts, an Ocala-based licensed clinical social worker, teaches mindfulness, meditation, and art workshops for cancer patients and others in need of healing experiences. She will lead a “Lunch and Learn” workshop titled “Healing Through Art Together” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Brick City Center for the Arts, aka “the Brick.”

The free event is part of the Marion Cultural Alliance’s (MCA) August exhibition and experiential series, “The Art of Aging.” Artists 55 and older contributed to the exhibition, but the workshop is open to all ages. Seating is limited; prospective participants can reserve a spot in advance through Eventbrite. 

Roberts, who’s also a writer and painter, has led two art-focused workshops with the MCA in the past five years. She taught mindfulness and meditation for six years and has provided counseling and group therapy for cancer patients for 23 years.

“‘Healing Through Art Together’ is about giving people permission to feel what they feel without a lot of structure and roles,” Roberts explained.

The Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute, her employer, is one of the major sponsors of “The Art of Aging” and has sponsored the event for five years. Her services there include one-on-one counseling for patients and their families during and after treatment. Services and workshops on meditation and other personal enrichment are included in their care.

Anonymous painting inspired by a prompt inviting art therapy participants to embrace messy imperfection and the space it provides for peace.

“We take care of the whole person, the whole family,” Roberts emphasized.

The Urology Institute of Central Florida is another major medical sponsor.

Other events in the series include a watercolor workshop on Aug. 17 and “Having the Conversation,” a talk on end-of-life planning on Aug. 23. 

Roberts (far right) with participants in a past “Arts Meditation” workshop.

“My hope is that they walk away with a new coping skill, a new tool on their toolbelt that they can use throughout their lives … or, at the very least, they have a wonderful afternoon where they get to take their mind off of what’s happening and have a fun time and socializing and feeling a connection with others,” Roberts expressed. 

Unlike your typical “paint and sip” session, the “Healing Through Art Together” workshop involves a focus on mindfulness and collaboration. Participants will work in groups of three or four to paint a single canvas. 

The collaborative approach reminds us we don’t always have control over circumstances and to find joy in being in the moment and working together.

Past art therapy workshop participants have approached art activities by drawing from personal memories.

Addie Clow, who joined one of Roberts’ recent art group sessions, found solace in a prompt that asked for an expression of what gives her peace. 

Clow painted a turtle, and she called her work “My Serenity,” inspired by creatures she encountered while swimming on her 60th birthday in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

by Amy Kuhns Roberts

“I caught this magical moment on my brand-new GoPro,” Clow explained. “I felt with a smaller sea turtle a spirit-like connection that made me think of my deceased mother. It actually came up for air and swam towards me, and I also videotaped the bigger turtle, swimming along the bottom, feeding itself too, which I believed represented my dad. They swam one in front of the other into the abyss. I found it to be the most amazing, euphoric, random snorkeling experience in all the years I have snorkeled!”

Touching lives comes with making friends—and losing friends. Working with cancer patients, Roberts has had to say her share of goodbyes. 

One mindfulness workshop participant, Tim Smith, well known and highly regarded in the community, served as an ambassador for the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership. His death was untimely and tragic; he was murdered in his home last March.

“When my grandmother lived at Brookdale he supported my mom, her caregiver, with incredible integrity and grace,” Roberts shared. “His journal entry brings me some peace. He was at peace in his life, attending mindful retreats and working hard to better himself and others.”

Research has found that physical and mental health benefits can be achieved through art and art therapy. 

The late Tim Smith’s
“Angels Unaware. Angels aware. Wherever I AM they are there.”
Painted at Mindfulness Retreat on Feb. 22, 2023.

A 2020 study in the “BMC Cancer” peer-reviewed medical journal reported that four guided, creative art (drawing) therapy exercises improved cancer patients’ psychological well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive emotions.

Other studies have shown art therapy alleviates pain symptoms, reduces stress and anxiety, enhances quality of life, improves the ability to cope with pain, stimulates mental function in older adults with dementia and diminishes depression in Parkinson’s patients.

Going easy on ourselves and not putting a lot of pressure to paint a certain way or cope a certain way is crucial to the art therapy process, Roberts explained. 

“There’s a lot of healing that takes place in allowing yourself to be messy or allowing yourself to be in a difficult place, and giving yourself permission and being kind to yourself, being non-judgmental are core basic values of mindfulness,” she said.

“Creating provides a bit of a safety net so that, ‘Yeah, I can feel this tough stuff, but I also have this kind of nice blanket wrapped around me of compassion and kindness towards myself.’”

MCA Lunch and Learn:

Healing Through Art Together

Led by Amy Kuhns Roberts

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Aug. 10

Free admission, reservation on Eventbrite required

MCA Brick City Center for the Arts, Ocala


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