Evanston organization celebrates 40 years of healing through art


Source: Institute for Therapy through the Arts on Facebook

The Institute for Therapy through the Arts is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a gala on June 9. The organization helps more than 2,000 clients throughout the Chicago area.

Amanda Svachula, Assistant A&E Editor


The Institute for Therapy through the Arts, an organization that combines harmonies and healing, will celebrate its 40th anniversary June 9 in Evanston.

The ITA, part of the Evanston-based Music Institute of Chicago, has evolved into a larger organization since it was founded in 1975. It now serves 2,000 clients throughout the Chicago area. The ITA is especially unique because instead of specializing in one type of art therapy, it offers therapy through four different art mediums: drama, music, art, and dance and movement.

“These therapies are effective because they access our emotions in a different way,” ITA executive director Jenni Rook said. “Clients can express how they are feeling without putting words to emotions. … Then, the therapist is there to communicate with them through the art, and help the client better understand his or herself throughout the process.”

The organization will hold a gala next month at the Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., to celebrate its anniversary. At the gala, it will honor Carrie Ann Inaba, a “Dancing with the Stars” judge, and Harriet Wadeson, an author and educator, for their involvement in promoting art therapy. With the gala, the ITA hopes to emphasize the power and usefulness of music therapy, Rook said.

“This is a nice way to get our names out there in a bigger way, as we would like to increase awareness about art therapy,” she said. “We have a really great team, and it’s a great environment to work in when you have a lot of people excited to work and constantly trying to learn more.”

The ITA serves clients of all ages who come in with varied needs. Since every client is different, each person is assessed in order to determine which therapy would work most effectively. The therapist then makes a plan based on the assessment. Many of the therapy sessions are very hands-on and allow clients to fully explore their artistic abilities in a way that also helps them express themselves.

“Therapy sessions are really detailed to patients,” Rook said. “We may use musical instruments and singing, where the client is actively participating in music process. … The creative arts just provide them with another way to communicate and develop skills they may not have with other types of therapies.”

Keith Whipple has worked with the ITA since 2002 as a drama therapist. One of the best parts of being a drama therapist at the institute is connecting with the patients on a unique level, Whipple said.

“It’s a way of working that is both endlessly challenging and creative,” he said. “It is endlessly cooperative and collaborative. It is of words and beyond words, and it’s about discovering things that seem stunningly obvious just by looking at them in a different way. “

Whipple said he hopes the gala will give the ITA and the clients’ work in the arts the attention it deserves.

“Oftentimes, this is one of these places where so much creative work is going on but it’s for health and healing,” Whipple said. “It doesn’t have the same attention as it might get as something that is very product-oriented. It’s great to have that opportunity to tell people what we’re doing.”

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