The founder of Our Phoenix Rises.Org, Mrs. Phoebe Margrill-Nix has great empathy for people, especially for those who are struggling with the same issues she has struggled with. A rape in her early 20s, her 2010 diagnosis of bipolar, ADD, and anxiety disorder, coupled with a period of alcohol abuse, makes her level of empathy particularly strong for individuals struggling with the same types of issues.
During her hospitalization in 2010, Margrill-Nix experienced a treatment process known as expressive art therapy, or as some refer to it, therapeutic art. Art therapy encourages self-expression, self-discovery, and emotional growth in a non-judgmental atmosphere. According to the American Art Therapy Association, "Art Therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem."
Once at home and feeling empowered by the creative process, Margrill-Nix continued to create art. Coming from a family of artists, artistic expression was a part of daily life; therefore in her time of crisis she intuitively embraced art as a way to continue healing. However, she felt stymied by a lack of education in the art making process. While Margrill-Nix recognizes that a formal art education is not a prerequisite for creating art, she does recognize that art education is beneficial.
As pointed out by the Creative Citizens Studios in their article Beyond Healing: Art as a means of Self-Actualization "why limit clients to therapeutic art? We believe that exposing clients, who desire it, to the full range of tools, skills, materials, ideas, genres, and other artists that anyone else has access to will inspire additional healing and benefits. Gaining inspiration from their contact with professionals, realizing the joy in exhibiting and sharing their work, and the pride they experience when their artwork sells" are many of the benefits of an art education or participation in an arts workshop. "By producing quality work, these individuals are viewed differently by the public; suddenly, they are artists, not just people" struggling with mental illness, addiction, or sexual violence.
Fortunate enough to afford art education courses, Margrill-Nix began researching various educational opportunities. Finding that social-good programs involving therapeutic art abound, she wondered how she could incorporate the therapeutic art modality with art education, and provide beneficial outcomes to individuals and to society.
Unfortunately for many individuals, one of the roadblocks to obtaining an education in the arts is lack of financial resources. In the book, Poverty: Access and Participation in the Arts "Research shows that barriers to accessing arts events and activities exist and are more acutely experienced by those on low incomes."
Our research supports our hypothesis that by addressing and promoting the benefits of arts education for lower income individuals struggling with mental illness, addiction and sexual violence, we will be supporting improved mental health and well-being for these individuals, as well as providing workforce, and civic benefits to our communities, and society.
Recognizing that an education in the arts is not meant to be a replacement for art therapy, our programs are designed to be available concurrently with an individual's therapy.