Art therapist Alison Eaton devotes a few hours of her week to preparing and leading a weekly art class for residents at Common Ground in Camperdown, NSW.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I have a background in a few different creative areas including design, musical theatre, expressive arts and creative therapies. My initial career was in graphic design and I have always had in interest in theatre - I currently work as a performer and clown. I also work as an expressive arts facilitator in aged care for elderly people experiencing various stages of dementia. I am currently completing my studies in art therapy and hope to utilise both my art and theatre skills in this area.

When did you start volunteering at Mission Australia?

I've just recently started volunteering in February 2018.

What made you want to volunteer with Mission Australia?

I believe creative expression is greatly beneficial to everyone. It has the potential to connect individuals to themselves, to others and to their surroundings. To be able to assist with allowing the residents at Mission Australia explore themselves through creativity is a privilege. I volunteer because I enjoy connecting with people and seeing individuals grow through the creative process. It is special and rewarding.

What does your role at Mission Australia involve?

I run an art class at Common Ground every Monday. This involves preparing the activities and implementing them in the group. My class is not about 'technique'. In the art room, there is no right or wrong way of creating, and there is also no good or bad. The way I work is not based on the end product as a piece of art, but rather the emphasis is on the process and what is wanting to be voiced or expressed at the time. Art enables self-expression from a place beyond cognitive awareness. Each 'creation' or 'expression' is honoured for just that, an expression of the individual and in essence an extension of a part of them.

My aim for the group is to enhance wellbeing and develop a sense of connection to self and others. I use various creative modalities including drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, poetry, story and music. I weave these together in a way that encourages exploration, authentic expression, individuality and acceptance in a safe and therapeutic environment.

What's the best thing about your role?

There are lots of best things: sharing stories, creating connections and conversations. Most of all, when authentic connection is made through my student's work and they have the opportunity to express this and be heard and witnessed.

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