Art Therapy

Back to Blog March 3, 2021

Art Therapy Graduate Takes First Prize for Research, Fieldwork

Author: Zachary Vickers


Tyler alumna’s interdisciplinary scholarship at local rehabilitation facility wins AATA award

Elizabeth Allen (BA ‘20), a graduate of the Tyler School of Art and Architecture Art Therapy Program, has earned first prize at the annual American Art Therapy Association (AATA) conference’s poster presentation competition.

Her presentation, titled “Common Threads: Community Weaving with Patients with Cognitive and Physical Trauma,” was given virtually in late January as part of the 2020 AATA conference, which delayed a few panels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Common Threads” was a research project based on Allen’s “Fieldwork in Art Therapy” class, which examines the important role of art making in promoting resilience in individuals, families and communities, and includes hands-on experience at pre-approved fieldwork sites. From January–March 2020, Allen worked with patients with physical and cognitive impairments at Magee Rehabilitation’s outpatient facility in South Philadelphia.

The project incorporated her interdisciplinary study at Tyler, merging her degree work in art therapy with classwork in Fibers & Material Studies and Community Arts Practices. Knowing how important community can be in general, and how vital it is to the healing process of Magee patients, Allen developed a community weaving experience for them.

“The overall concept was essentially a big loom that each patient could take a turn weaving into and making their own section,” said Allen. “I find that working with yarn, for example, is not an intimidating medium for patients—it is a familiar, comfortable and fun medium. It was intended to be a large art installation that the facility could display.”

While the “community loom” was never completed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Allen was able to lead a few workshops, teaching patients how to weave. However, her research and hands-on experiences were enough for her to develop her poster and presentation for the AATA conference, which she learned about from her mentor, Lisa Kay, Tyler associate professor and program head of Art Therapy.

“Dr. Kay is the reason I applied to the AATA undergraduate poster competition,” said Allen. “I wouldn’t have even known about it if it wasn’t for her. She was there every step of the way, encouraging us to think differently or intensively about our research and scholarship.”

Currently, Elizabeth Allen is in Drexel University’s Masters in Art Therapy and Counseling Program, which she expects to complete in 2022.

For a more detailed look at Allen's award-winning poster, click here. You can read the official announcement on the competition here.