This examination aims to explore animation as a powerful tool in education, community and art therapy settings focusing on immigrant and refugee groups. The purpose of this study is to analyze the physical and emotional benefits of creating animation in marginalized communities using an action research design. Though I used animation therapy as a model of an emerging discipline, I wanted to translate the therapeutic qualities of animation into non-clinical educational and community settings and investigate their effectiveness. I examined during accounts with art therapists, freelance animators and art educators in an attempt to discover the potential of animation and its benefits for immigrant and refugee communities. Because animation therapy research is almost non-existent in the United States and in a state of infancy in the United Kingdom, I believe there is a crucial need for critical analyses of the field and translating it into the field of art education. As I believe and practice a therapeutic approach to art education, I also understand the complexities of this interdisciplinary approach, which I address in this research.
In this research I refer to outcomes of creating and watching animation as “therapeutic”. It is the most controversial of my keywords, mainly because of the multitude of definitions and usages, almost hierarchically describing a proximity to a medical field. It is usually associated with psychology, psychiatry, and pathology and describing anything broken that needs fixing. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2017), its main definition describes something “of or relating to the treatment of disease or disorders by remedial agents or methods” or “providing or assisting in a cure” p. #. Those two definitions relate to a clinical setting of therapy, associated with diagnosing and cure, and are often a reason for separation between art education and therapy. As educators and social servants, it is our role and obligation to care about our student’s growth, physical, social and emotional well being… their wholeness. No matter what the setting--a classroom, an art therapy room, a community art center, an after school program or a street, it’s not only our job, but simply a responsibility to care about another human being. I believe in utilizing methods of art therapy in a classroom and in the context of this research I refer to “therapeutic” aspects of animation as “producing good effects on your body or mind (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, April 2016)” and “causing someone to feel happier, more relaxed (Cambridge Dictionaries Online, April 2016).” I draw from Gestalt Psychology and its understanding that “the person should be viewed as an organized whole, not merely a ‘disjointed collection’ of feelings, thoughts, and actions” (Stout, 1995, p. 10) that, as an educator, I have a responsibility to my students to understand them and their situations in a broader, more holistic way, and not only within the limited academic environment. I believe that “when art education became more student oriented, concentrating upon personal growth as well as the product, it opened the door for the discipline of art therapy“ (Stout, 1995, p. 26).
In addition to the central research question, I examine an approach to technology and digital media in education and their parallel value in art therapy environments; methods, techniques and benefits specific to animation vs. other art mediums. I aim to analyse the separation between the disciplines of art therapy by answering the following questions: Can and should art education be therapeutic? What are the roles and limitations of each of those fields? I also evaluate the privilege of accessibility that comes with utilizing digital media in art education and examine issues of sustainability of animation projects with adults and youth in three underserved communities. Furthermore, I inspect the relationship between animation and immigration--correlation between the immigrant-specific needs in education and a particular set of benefits provided through animation. Throughout this process, I recognized animation’s accessibility and familiarity, and better understood how animation could be demystified and considered an asset in fields of art education and art therapy.
New technologies and digital media are ever-present in our daily lives and can easily translate their value to therapeutic, educational and community settings. As an animator and an aspiring art educator, I constantly navigate an uncharted role within the discipline of animation therapy. Through this research, I examine interdisciplinary approaches to art therapy and education and find collaborative relationships that will allow artists, educators and therapists to co-create and further develop the study of animation and its application in their respective fields.