What is Art Therapy?

Well, it is definitely not the adult coloring book since there is no art therapist to supervise. It is a hybrid of art and psychology were no one needs any fancy artistic skill in order to do it. The therapist sees clients from all walks of life and uses art to improve their well-being and mental health. 

It started to become prominent in the 1940’s as a distinct discipline. The first person to coin the term art therapy was English artist Adrian Hill in 1942. He was being treated for tuberculosis in 1938 and discovered how art affects the mind and body. Hill’s work was expanded by artist Edward Adamson, who helped establish the British Association of Art Therapists in 1964.

In the United States art therapy was being pioneered by Margaret Naumburg who was coined the “mother of art therapy”. Naumburg was an educator and a therapist.  In 1915, she opened the Walden School in New York City after studying briefly with Maria Montessori in Italy.

Even though art therapy has grown, it is still considered relatively new by today’s standards it is used in a variety of settings such as schools and nursing homes. This type of therapy focuses on inner experience and not on the finished product. In other words, the art therapist is not there to criticise the client’s art, but there to facilitate deep healing.  

As you can see, art therapy is beneficial to society, especially mental health. When verbal communication therapy fails, art is there to the rescue. 

Works cited: 

Altman, Julie. (2009, February 27). Margaret Naumburg. Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/naumburg-margaret

Bitonte, Robert A, and Marisa De Santo. (2014, July 3). Art Therapy: An Underutilized, yet Effective Tool. Mental illness vol. 6,1 5354. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4253394/

Diconsiglio, John. (2016 February). Color Me Cautious: Don’t Mistake Adult Coloring Books for Art Therapy. Retrieved from https://columbian.gwu.edu/color-me-cautious-don%E2%80%99t-mistake-adult-coloring-books-art-therapy

Fountain, Henry. (1996, February 10). Edward Adamson, 84, Therapist Who Used Art to Aid Mentally Ill. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/10/world/edward-adamson-84-therapist-who-used-art-to-aid-mentally-ill.html

Art & Emotion: Mark Rothko

Orange and Yellow by Mark Rothko

How many people can say that they have had an encounter with a painting that made them cry right there in a museum or art gallery? Did it happened to be a Mark Rothko painting?

For those of you who don’t know who Rothko was, he was an American painter born into a family of Russian Jewish intellects in 1903. His full name was Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz which got abbreviated to Mark Rothko in 1940 due to anti-Semitism. In 1913, he immigrated to America with his Mom and sister, they eventually meet up with his father and 2 brothers in Portland, Oregon. Soon after arriving his father sadly died.

Rothko had a complicated relationship to religion and after mourning the death of his father for almost a year, made a conscious decision to move away from organized religion.

He believed that color was “primal, elemental, pure unconscious emotional resonance and response.”(Meditations on Mark Rothko) This emotional response or experience was the reason why he recommended viewers to position themselves as little as 18 inches away from the canvas to have that experience. He described his paintings as “…not a picture of an experience. It is the experience.” This experience is eventually described as a religious transcendence or spiritual transcendence. The barrier that you find in other paintings is gone when you view one of Rothko’s paintings and become a part of it.  It is essentially taking you on a higher plane.

This higher plane is the communication of emotion, that invoke the experiences of grief, ecstasy and destiny. Rothko famously wrote that “The people who weep before my pictures, are having the same religious experiences I had when painting them.”

As seen, his paintings invoked basic human emotions that allowed for the viewer to actually be felt as a human being, in an empathic way. One were the person is listened to and finally understood. It is something that is lacking in today’s world and is needed more and more in a world gone mad.

Works Cited:

Auishai, Tamar, host. “Meditations on Mark Rothko.” Episode 24. The Lonely Palette. 22 November 2017. Retrieved from http://www.thelonelypalette.com/episodes/2017/11/20/episode-24-meditations-on-mark-rothko

Gaylord, Martin. ( 20 September 2008). The mysterious tragedy at the heart of Rothko’s tranquil masterpieces. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturereviews/3560926/The-mysterious-tragedy-at-the-heart-of-Rothkos-tranquil-masterpieces.html

Jain, Mayank. (28 March 2017). HOW TO UNDERSTAND ART – A MARK ROTHKO CASE STUDY. Retrieved from https://www.mayankja.in/blog/how-to-understand-art-a-mark-rothko-case-study

Color and Collage: Tonight at First Friday!


While there are perhaps infinite elements which characterize art, none looms so large in pure expressive power as color. In either exuberant overabundance, or in limited dramatic palates, color, more than form, line, or space is the essence of feeling. Much like feeling itself however, color is also a thing that does not exist independent of its subject but rather alters its.

In this respect color is not unlike collage. Through the repurposing of existing images, collage permits the creation of new subjects and meaning. The previously banal or benign can take on urgent potency with new context.

Like an alchemist, this alteration is the essential power of art. In doing so the artist can recast the mundane to the sublime, ugliness into beauty…and also the reverse. In deciding if such such feats of transmutation are truly possible however, it also a power which the viewer shares.

In the spirit of these thoughts, here are some colorful subjects for you to consider this First Friday:

  • Rainbows and pottery at Spectrum and Carson Culp at Eutectic Gallery
  • Stephanie Chefas Projects welcomes Yellena Jame’s colorful creations in Immerse
  • Mixed media and collage by Israel Hughes at Roll-Up Photo Studio + Gallery
  • Sidestreet Arts presents new collage and mixed media works in All Mixed Up
  • The Night Gallery at Splendorporium
  • A Spring Fling at East Creative Collective
  • A new blog post by Victoria Glanowski on Tetrachromacy

Look forward to seeing you tonight!

Noah Alexander Isaac Stein

First Friday PDX Director



Escape the dreary Northwest gray and immerse yourself in the eye-popping, candy colored rainbow of Spectrum. Blair Clemo will join us for the opening celebration, along with our Back Room artist, Carson Culp. Carson recently returned from a residency in Japan following an apprenticeship at Leach Pottery.

6 pm – pm @ 1930 NE Oregon St


This March, Stephanie Chefas Projects is delighted to present Immerse, the latest exhibition of work from Portland-based artist Yellena James. Prepare to take a deep plunge into the world of James’ creation, where ethereal forms overlap amidst a limitless expanse. Rendered in vibrant color, organic elements thrive within fully conceived ecosystems, as the collective result essentially swallows the viewer whole.

7 pm – 10 pm @ 305 SE 3rd Ave, Ste 202


Painter, collage artist and native Oregonian, Israel Hughes presents new mixed media works that celebrate layers, lines and edges. His intuitive process and improvisatory style are informed by visual poetry, New York Dada and a storied history as a theater manager and blues musician.

5 pm – 9 pm @ 1715 SE Spokane St, Portland


We’re ”All Mixed Up” for the month of March … with collage & mixed media works. Our First Friday Opening offers up fun conversation, delicious reception munchies and adult beverages. If you like to mingle with artists and art lovers, you’ll not want to miss this! (Please be 21 years of age to consume the alcohol).

6 pm – 9 pm @ 140 SE 28th Ave


Join us for the Night Gallery Show. Featuring artists Jason Stewart and Troy Hileman. Also, Ophelia Darkly will be here reading her haunted doll Tarot. This is going to be a dark, creepy, wonderful evening.

7 pm – 9 pm @ 3421 SE 21st Ave


Spring Fling Art and Craft is happening at East Creative in conjunction with First Friday. Frida’s Den will be filled with amazing colorful art and crafts in addition to our fabulous First Friday open studio event. Come on down and see what all the fuss is about. Makers, shakers and artists abound! Plenty of free parking as always. Free Kombucha too.

6 pm – 9 pm @ 211 SE Madison St.


We are excited to welcome the Annie Meyer Gallery to the East Side. Come check out the new location on SE Clinton this Friday!

6 pm – 9 pm @ 2507 SE Clinton St.



“What if I told you that there is this really cool mutation existing in today’s world called tetrachromacy. What is tetrachromacy? Tetrachromacy is “The condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information or possessing four types of cone cell in the eye.” Basically, a person has an extra cone that allows them to see the differences in colors that appear identical to others…”

Read the full post here.

Contact Us

We love to promote art events involving our participating galleries and artists, please be sure to send your news and any feedback to: press@firstfridaypdx.org

General inquires: info@firstfridaypdx.org

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