Art Therapy Gains Traction in China: Meet The Advocate Helping It Happen

 Big Miao” Shimming is trying to revolutionize the way China engages with special needs children – and he’s reaching out to Antioch Seattle’s Art Therapy program to help.  Shimming will be visiting AUS on May 16 – 17.  The public is invited to attend Miao’s presentation on his important work on May 17 from 3-5pm.

Shimming’s visit is part of a developing relationship between Antioch Seattle’s Art Therapy program and Worldwide Art Brut Culture (WABC), a Shanghai-based NGO Shimming founded in 2009.  With a mission to help special needs children express themselves through art, WABC has so far opened 20 learning centers across China and has more than 50 teachers.

Janice Hoshino PhD, chair of Creative Arts Therapy at AUS, has traveled to China several times over the past year in order to help WABC train its volunteer teachers in art therapy.  She says the fact that WABC is rapidly increasing the number of areas and individuals it serves is an impressive accomplishment given China has a long history of stigmatizing and punishing people with mental disorders:  “Despite recent reforms, it’s still not unusual for persons with psychiatric issues to be involuntarily institutionalized,” says Dr. Hoshino.

Hoshino says the reason art therapy is gaining acceptance in China, and the reason WABC specifically has been able to attract donors like the Gates Foundation, comes down to the transformative process of art-making.  She described one 20-something individual who took part in a WABC art therapy training she was involved in: “This young man has been mute for much of his life, and by the end of the training he was talking.”

Beyond the power of art therapy, Hoshino also gives credit for WABC’s success to the outsized personality of its founder: “With his infectious enthusiasm, kind heart and ready laugh, Big Miao is the perfect ambassador for the program.”

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