Insight via art

December 18, 2012

Jasmine McGregor, MSW '12, has always been interested in the process of creating art. As a graduate student in Baylor's School of Social Work, the opportunity to interview and review the artwork of a 14-year-old youth named Thomas -- who had been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) -- gave her a whole new appreciation for the artistic process.

"When Thomas is with his art, it is one of the rare times he's focused and completely absorbed. He's a very insightful, intelligent person, and his artwork reflects the busyness of his mind," says McGregor.

This unique insight into the mind of a special young man came as a result of a new graduate course within the School of Social Work. Faculty members Dr. Jim Ellor, Tracey Kelley, BBA '00, MSW '05, and Becky Scott developed "Children's Art in the Museum: Explaining Psycho-Pathology to Children" to explore key questions: How can we help people understand mental illness and related disabilities? How can we engage our students in this process?

In collaboration with Baylor's Mayborn Museum, the team began to seek answers through the minds of children. They contacted Artsonia, an Austin-based non-profit, which shared artwork created by children with disabilities. Each MSW student selected one piece of artwork, studied the artist's specific challenges and how they are reflected in the art before interviewing the child-artist themselves.

Today, a row of six pieces of children's art, each framed with a statement from the artist, hangs in the first floor hallway of the School of Social Work. Soon, it will be a full-scale exhibit in the Children's Discovery Center of Baylor's Mayborn Museum.

To help visitors relate to each artist, Ellor, Kelley, Scott and their students are developing a booklet that will provide parents with suggested talking points, questions and games to help prompt discussion as they view the artwork together.

Hands-on programs and creative courses like this one are examples of dedicated faculty and students who seek out creative ways to answer questions that lead to greater understanding of our world.

Annual gifts from alumni and friends help to cover the costs of unique academic opportunities and programs like this one for many of Baylor's schools, colleges and departments. With the combined support of the Baylor family, the resulting educational experiences have benefits that extend far beyond a written thesis or the walls of a lively classroom and into the hearts of students, faculty and the greater community.

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