Keeping Client Artwork Safe
As a nomadic art therapist, I travel from school to school with my marvelous, magical (and heavy) kit of art supplies, setting up and taking down the circus tent everywhere I go. I’ve got a too-big soft-sided portfolio for carrying paper, cardboard, boxboard, and dry two-dimensional art products that are in progress or that clients have entrusted to me until the end of the school year. That way I can protect the art between sessions or transport it back to my office for longer-term storage, as I rarely have a means of keeping it safe on any campus. But what about those works of art I can’t put in my portfolio because they’re three-dimensional and/or wet? How can I guarantee their protection?
I can’t. And it’s my obligation to share this fact with a client the moment she or he begins to contemplate 3-D and/or wet work. Of course this is a major drawback of my position, as any art therapist knows that some treatment issues are best addressed through 3-D and/or wet work. Still, we all have to operate within the confines of our work setting and situation. The bottom line is that if a therapist cannot keep a client’s art products safe, the client needs to understand this at the earliest possible opportunity so an important conversation can transpire. This will give the client a chance to make necessary decisions about how she or he proceeds.
For some clients, the art process is more important than the art product; they might be perfectly all right with disposing of their art after they’ve had the experience of creating it. For other clients, though, the art product is more important than the art process; they might want to take a chance with unlocked storage or perhaps even alter their course of action so that they create something they won’t mind possibly never seeing again. Regardless, of course, it’s important to ensure that no identifying information is on the art, whether it’s going to a recycling bin/trash can or to an unmonitored cabinet or shelf.
How you treat a client’s art products tells the client a lot about how you value her or him. Having timely, transparent conversations about your ability/inability to keep things safe is a way to let your clients know you’re there to protect them and help them make decisions about protecting themselves. What could be more therapeutic than that?
With appreciation for the important work you do,
Megan July 2013