Expressive arts instructor Markus Scott-Alexander will be speaking at Haliburton School of Art and Design on Tuesday May 24 from 6 to 7 p.m. as part of their Art Talk series.
Scott-Alexander is a psychotherapist and has been working in expressive arts for 30 years. He is the director of the World Arts Organization in Edmonton where he teaches students in expressive arts therapy.
The following is a Q&A with Scott-Alexander.
What brought you to the field of expressive arts?
I like to give thought to what I care about. Expressive arts gives me the opportunity to actively use my mind my heart my body and my spirit. It isn’t about the arts. It’s through the arts that we come back to what matters and to what precedes our distortions. Then once we have come “home” the question then becomes how do we enter the world in a creative and sensitive way. This profession attracted me because it demands an immediacy of thought and response.
What are you teaching during your time in Haliburton?
I’m curious about what the relationship is between creativity and resiliency. If we are to bounce back after profound difficulty it requires not only a healthy body but a healthy attitude. The arts are about inspiration and skill. Through expressive arts we stay with questions like What sustains me? What is generative? What nurtures me?
How is expressive arts different from other arts study? Can you give examples?
There is a difference between acquiring techniques and building skill. Our modus operandi of “Low Skill High Sensitivity” places the emphasis on process rather than product. Sometimes it is called art as a way of knowing.
We also work with all arts modalities from writing to painting to dance and theatre photography and so on. Working in one art form supports and strengthens another art form.
It is not about identifying as say a painter but rather as a creative human being who has many facets and many ways of exploring and shaping that aspects of the psyche.
Mental health issues have been on the public radar more than ever in recent years. Has that changed the level of interest in expressive arts?
As the world becomes crazier with the level of difficulty increasing in what is required of us to stay sane expressive arts has become a wonderful way of approaching well being that is not about personal mental health problems but rather about how to use a resource-oriented therapy to access resources within us like playfulness or a sense of humour or creativity in general through the arts.
We don’t work on issues. We work to access our ability to respond to an ever-increasing pressure-filled world creatively.
Some practitioners of expressive arts are not psychotherapists. Is that a distinction that needs to be drawn when working with an instructor?
I am interested in the question “What works?” when looking at complex questions about the human psyche and its complexities.
What works? What helps us to return to a state that precedes all of our distortions and precedes our desire to be acceptable?
As a psychotherapist I am interested in both the depth and length of the soul-searching process.
There is a deep commitment to truly discover “what” we are and to give that what a “who.”
I like to teach students in a way that is about the ever-growing cultivation of conscious awareness to support real change.
Your bio says that the career as taken you around the world to places like Peru and Malta. Can you elaborate on why?
I work in way that I might call pre-cultural. The arts can not only find a way for our many cultures to interact but the arts can also take us to a very primal level of expression that can be referred to as pre-cultural and precedes our acculturation. I work with students in over 20 countries.
We are all expressions of the Oneness each in our own unique way.
The graduate school that I teach at in Switzerland the European Graduate School (EGS) www.expressivearts.egs.edu has many training programs that interface with this institution. I teach at most of them from Hong Kong to Norway.
My school in Edmonton World Arts Organization (www.worldartsorg.com) is one of those schools that function in cooperation with EGS.
(I’m originally from New York where I ran a school for almost 20 years. This is my 30th year in expressive arts).
I travel to teach either at an affiliate training program or to present at the yearly International Expressive Arts Spring Symposium.
This year it was in Ireland next year Sweden.
I’m looking forward to giving a keynote address to the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association’s Research Conference in the fall in St. Albert Alberta.
I’m planning on talking about creative process-based research and how playfulness is essential to all aspects of thought.
But for now I’m very happy to be in Haliburton.