Friday, March 2, 2018

Introducing Isabelle

Introducing Isabelle!

In this world of ours so broken by misuse of power,  I find such relief and HOPE in raising artful expression through teaching Expressive Arts Therapy and Community Art.  The work itself leans everyone into equanimity as teacher and student lean in to our responsibilities and our innate abilities in service of artful expressions emerging.  Whether in Nepal, the US, Central America, or Europe, teaching for me is a work of humble attentiveness to the artists, the  process and the energy of art emerging. Most important for me is finding way to teach which frees everyone to stand in equal dignity and ability in the art-making. In multi-cultural settings, where diverse understandings and experiences of power, privilege and hierarchical authority are present I practice letting go of power, by transferring ascribed power of position to the energy of the art arriving.  My hope is that in modeling standing in just my space of responsibility for empowering the sense based process of art making, students can fully present themselves as diverse artists with distinct giftings of forming art. While teaching in Nepal recently, it was the art emerging through Isabelle which helped us all stay in tune with our diverse abilities and responsibilities for bringing forth the art arriving in the room.

I share with you Isabelle!

Yes Isabelle is flute presence, setting the tone of the place and shared presence of our Expressive Arts Therapy course.  It is the voice of Isabelle that called us to the work as we began each morning and session.  When I have sunken into the deepest listening place with students it is also Isabelle who is given space to hold us in liminality, the magical, imaginal space of time away from ordinary time, where our senses lead.  It is Isabelle who encourages the flow between the art which comes and the senses of the students to receive it. As the teacher/witness in the room, I listen for Isabelle's artful way moment by moment as we, Isabelle and I, hold the space and guide the process within the frame of the EXA session.  We are a team Isabelle and I, opening up the space for "what art may come".

When working in multi-cultural, highly diverse settings, it is the "lifting" of innate qualities of our humanity that bring us into ease.   In western traditions of psychology and the academia hierarchy of the expert over the one in need is deeply entombed as the grounding expectation of the work of healing and learning.  In the liminal space of Expressive Arts Therapy, it is our shared humanity which is the foundational expectation of sharing space, and the inspiration of the art arriving in the presence of relationship.

Isabelle knows somehow, even when I don't, a way to speak to the heart and ease the strain of being open, vulnerable, and trusting of the process.  In liminal space we leave behind the soci-cultural landscape of habituated, systemic, intersecting oppression's and bring forth our art differently, remaining supportive of each other and the diversity present in our artful renderings. In this world divided by race, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, age and anything else people can find to bully one another through, YES the liminal space of teaching and providing Expressive Arts Therapy is opportunity for reprieve and resurrection of our common humanity.  Yes, the art of Isabelle in the lead, levels us into our humanity as common ground for being in and bringing forth, artful expression.

I am so grateful, so grateful indeed for my Isabelle.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Love letters remembering- Art Making in Nepal.

Love Letters Remembering - Art Making in Nepal

Teaching and practicing Expressive Arts Therapy and Community Art in environments of cultural diversity ethically requires letting go of the idea that I am "the expert" in the room.  As a teacher I bring a particular expertise in concepts and guiding principles shown to be effective in this work as I know it.  However, Art making is intrinsically human.  Our innate artistry is deeply entwined with our cultural, communal, geographic and generational history. We are Living Artistry, all of us! Remembering and re-engaging the art maker within us requires moving out of everyday, acculturated patterns of engagement.  We work to enter the world of playful surprise which naturally sets free our inner artistry! Art making happens where inspiration has room to enter and imagination has breath to fly.  Routine life often stifles the creative flow within. Everyone is the expert in the room in Expressive Arts Therapy, especially the ART.

In Nepal, moving into learning Expressive Arts Therapy, began with exploring who we brought ourselves to be in the art making, in the artful exploring.  We first found our place in the rooms which would serve our artful exploration.  Somehow the interior space and the exterior place, must become friends, and so we create interaction through the breath, exchanging air between our inner selves and our outer place, which carries us into moving.  We move through the air which is our inhaled, exhaled exchange with our place and with one another.  As we move we begin to find the others involved in sharing breath with place, in innovative ways.  As we move, we let our knee lead us and then we follow our nose, our shoulder  and even our left hip, and we begin introducing ourselves to others through the meeting of knees, shoulders, elbows, and yes lol... sometimes toes. What wonderful, playful perspectives from which to meet and begin seeing one another.

And we move to colors, boxes of pastels arrive to help us explore who we are becoming in this art space already. Which color chooses us? We worked until we found just the one that called us!  And we let the colors move on our papers and give us our names that day.  The name by which we wished to be called.  And we formed our presence, individually as part of our community of artists for the week.

Each one an expert in ourselves; each one opening to the art emerging as expert directing the making; each one recognizing the other as fellow artist, a companion on the way.

And lets not forget the bumps.  The places where our knees introduced each other too forcefully, the moments when balance was lost, and my toes for a moment, stepped on yours.   These are incredible opportunities where the play might have been interrupted, that we might be students of the art informing us of the shadows within, and the struggles between, that in this container, can be transformed in and between us as the art comes!

We are All Living Artistry.

May peace within us and between us expand its depth and reach as we make art.

Next time: Isabelle, our surprise expert appears!

Until then... may beauty surprise you and art making call you!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Harvesting Begins!

Harvesting is the gleaning of the work, the locating of that which brings life and love and friendship through the art making we share. This is the work of Today and the next few weeks of Todays for Sadhana Thappa and I.  Fostering dignity in diversity through Expressive Arts Therapy and Community Art Practice is first and foremost fostered through a chosen posture of love.   Nothing less would be effective.  Too much interior and relational work is required in this endeavor for anything less than love to be an effective motivator and embrace of our effort.

Although love is undefinable completely, it is sensorially experienced and intellectually describable.  I(Mary) experience love "felt" first.  There is first and foremost a sense of being drawn towards someone or something.  My senses are tapped and move their attention towards the stimuli that has drawn them, my body posture is redirected towards  and opens to that which has called to me. My emotions are enlivened, and curiosity engaged. My whole being seems to open up to capture the experiencing of what has drawn me to attend its presence.  When this phenomena occurs, it is because I am in the moment before I am drawn in, standing in the posture of being in love with, open, vulnerable to my present experiencing.

When I am an effective facilitator of Expressive Arts Therapy, Community Art Practice and teacher of this work, it is because love is, as much as possible, the posture of my approach. It is this posture that Sadhana Thapa and I have witnessed in each other which has brought us to engage this work together and keeps us pressing into the call of bringing forth Expressive Arts Institute Nepal and Living Artistry: Community Art Practice as joint ventures of peace building work.  We are engaged in a labor of Love sometimes from opposite sides of the world and sometimes literally side by side.  Location hasn't mattered.  Love and choosing again and again to love, enables us to absorb the revelations of our humanness, our strengths, struggles, challenges and frustrations as well as our giftings, education, cultural distinctions and culturally embedded praxis and continue to reach towards each other for the sake of friendship and the work. The strain is possible because the work is embraced by the love and surpassed by shared joy!

We are so very deeply grateful to all have supported this work.  We thank you for your financial contributions, your shared gifts of art made and sold for donations, your words of encouragement, your time!  We thank most tenderly Prem and Joe our husbands, for their tireless effort and support of us and this project! 

Below is a short synopsis of the facts of our latest training in Nepal.  This will be followed by a regular stream of stories from the work.  The beauty of the people we were with, we want to share with you!  For All who partake in this project, are Beautiful!!!

Expressive Arts Institute Nepal: Fall 2017

Mary was on the ground in Nepal from October 28 through November 19. During this time,Mary taught two Masters Level courses: Expressive Arts Therapy: Foundations, Forms and Ethics and Community Art Practice: A Pathway towards Peace.  Sadhana and Mary led students through practicum experiences in 8 locations with a variety of populations.  Mary provided practicum supervision for all field work at all sites and Sadhana provided cultural mentoring and as a 3rd year Masters Student of Expressive Arts Therapy led a team of students at her site in the work.  In addition Mary provided Supervision to two other Masters Students from the European Graduate School for their practicum hours and training in multi-cultural ethics practice and cross cultural humility.

For both Sadhana and Mary, these were 16 hour days, 6 out of 7 per week.  It was powerful and exhausting and so very beautiful!  We have learned so much about what went well and what we will do differently next fall when we bring to life the next Expressive Arts Institute Nepal full training experience.

We will in these days, be sharing the stories of this past fall more fully than our facebook posts and time would allow last fall!  We share in hopes of honoring the work of the people in Nepal and the team that engaged this global opportunity. We share in hopes of honoring all who support us in anyway.  And yes we share to encourage everyone to continue with us, supporting this work and perhaps bringing others alongside us.  The project and therefor our need for support, is growing.

We share stories to celebrate the Love that grows and grows us when we gather in dignity, in diversity and in care for our shared humanity.

On Monday I will post Expressive Arts Nepal: Phase 3 for everyone to see and consider supporting.

May we greet the love of God in each one, every time!

Mary Putera, LMHC, MDiv., CAGS, PhD candidate
Sadhana Thapa, MA (Social Work), Expressive Arts Therapies masters student 3rd year

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why Community Art Practice?

Why I’m Passionate About Facilitating Community Art

         Today, August 19, 2017, I swam in the pool at the gym! I have been trying to remember the co-ordination of my limbs for moving through the water reasonably smoothly for years! Today August 19, 2017, my body somehow RECONNECTED the full length of my legs to the activity of kicking! Ahhh yes! This is what it is like to experience the felt sense of smooth, long propulsion through the water with my whole body!  Joyful surprise of whole body functioning filled me. This somehow newly found, remembered ability, meaning I CAN, is mine again!
         On February 14, 1999, I was in a horse riding accident. On that day, I experienced the crushing and twisting of my torso and spine from my tail bone to my skull, a redistributing of abdominal organs, and the destruction of neurological pathways from my brain to my body especially my limbs. I also sustained a brain injury that left me without many years of memory, unable to manage emotional flooding, with altered visual capacity, a thick muddy experiencing of a felt sense of life, and a newly expanded pain scale unlike anything I had ever known. I felt like a shattered glass window barely held together by its frame, in a posture of intense vulnerability and excruciating self-protection. Sheer determination to experience as little loss of connection with my husband, children, extended family and profession as possible somehow propelled me through my day-to-day life for a few years.
         After the accident, I could no longer integrate information or function through left brain pathways in clear fashion. Intellectual and embodied intelligence remained locked in me, in chaos and unable to be refined, reshaped, accessed or developed through regular thought processes. For a highly functioning woman, this was an extremely painful part of my experience.
         Three months after the accident, I graduated from Lesley University with an MA in Clinical Mental Health, with specializations in Holistic Practice and Expressive Arts Therapy. The specialization in Expressive Arts Therapy became such a place of grace in my work with others and my own life. As my body was literally being reconstructed by physical therapists, massage therapists and chiropractors, my soul, my heart and my brain were being re-imagined into functioning through personal and community art making. Expressive Arts therapy as low skill, high sensitivity embodied work emerging through the senses, was a healing process which met me right where I was, in my own place of being remade, and even newly made through imaginative play. My laughter was restored along with neural pathways, the ability to breathe more fully, and newfound abilities for sharing life with others that were Oh So Much Bigger, Fuller and Freer!
         A turning point in my Expressive Arts Journey came in the fall of 2001/2002 I believe (I am still a bit memory impaired). I attended a series of EXA workshops with Shaun McNiff.  The shards of myself were reheated in the alchemical process of embodied art making and repetition in this peer group setting as Shaun guided us through.  Together we engaged sensory based, intuitive, multi-modal, embodied work that was held by following the emergent, engaging repetition, trusting the process, and experiencing the vulnerability of seeing and being seen.  I was aware too that our process seemed held by something larger than myself and larger than the group. I sensed a warmth, comfort and safety that truly comes in the presence of love. The courage came to live into healing moments of soul-filled singing and moving which re-enlivened my sense of being originally formed as living artistry in my mother’s womb. The group with Shaun as facilitator created together a container safe enough for delving deep and excavating hidden beauty within ourselves.
Beholding, bringing forth, and sharing Beauty has been the way of my mother’s family and Maltese Italian heritage for generations. As my training and self healing continued, body memories awoke in me of old habits of engaging visual art, dance, movement and music as practices of resiliency and hope in my youth and young adult years. The muse, the spirit of Creator/Creating was once again alive in my psyche and soul.  I could sense myself once again as an integrated self in the making, always seeking Beauty amongst us.
         In 2005 I returned to Graduate school seeking an MDiv.  Sensory based artistry re-made in me flourished as I facilitated Collaborative Community Art in Worship in the Seminary. A multi-ethinic, multi-lingual, gender inclusive, multi-national, intergenerational group of students came together with the hope of creating artfully engaging worship experiences for the entire seminary community. Together we explored themes of liturgical life through a frame I developed for Collaborative Community Art Making. We stepped into liminal space, a time out of time where social constructs of who we were defined to be were left aside. We engaged various modalities of visual art making, sounding, dance and movement to explore themes, ideas and imaginings. Weavings extended upward in two-story tall Chapel windows, stories formed telling us what mattered, movement and dance brought forth the sense of Spirit, and sacred presence and performance led to ways for the entire worship community to be gathered into artful expressions of love. Collaborative Community Art making became the opportunity to form a community full of dignity in diversity in a Seminary setting.  It was also a very difficult space as diverse people were invited to share this exploration in an atmosphere of mores and folkways profoundly shaped in colonialist, patriarchal, white western male dominance.  Through Collaborative Community Arts based Worship, Hope grew in me that the divides of oppression could be transformed. I also came to understand that I would need to go beyond the seminary to engage the human community more fully.
         On Friday August 11, 2011 (I looked it up) Shaun McNiff and Paolo Knill co-facilitated a one-day conference, “Liberating Creativity: Courage to Lead.” From Alaska to Boston I did go! Such sacred space it was indeed. I was introduced to Paolo’s way of expanding the range of play, and the possibilities for engaging the art emerging among people gathered. We created a parade! As my group worked to become an offering to be witnessed by the street crowd, the synergy of us made space for a new experience we could have never have created alone. We were different from each other in so many ways and similar in our potential for participating in the incredible craft of bringing forth an emerging art piece. Paolo led us through our senses, rather than words, and through embodied presencing rather than habituated thoughts, to be present with each other. Paolo fostered our willingness to be enticed, interested in the process and surprised by what would come, and we were! We found a way to live into the humility and generosity of making space not only for each other, but for “the third,” the art as its own entity developing with us.  For a little while, I was flying as a Hawk, sounding the call of fully experiencing and Joyously belonging in the parade of musical, dancing, finger-snapping float form of my group.  That day, I learned to trust the Community Art Practice process as pathway for bringing diverse people into shared space of dignity as human community. This was joyous to me!
         Since this workshop in 2011, I have gone on to receive a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Expressive Arts Therapies and Community Art and am currently working on my dissertation in Community Art Practice as pathway for peace-building. I have facilitated Community Art Practice in the form of low skill, high sensitivity work in five countries, and taught in three. I have facilitated Community Art in groups as small as 6 and as large as 260. Facilitations have sometimes focused on theme-close work such as exploring gender oppression, cultural humility, bridging socially constructed divides of race, class, gender identity, and the anguish of collective trauma and transitory existence. Other Community Art facilitations were about holding space for friendships to grow, laughter, vulnerability and trust to become normalized, imagination and hope to flourish and community joy to expand exponentially. In all these circumstances, I have experienced the power of Community Art as an opportunity for imagining wholeness and bringing forth a foretaste of what we can live into in community wholeness embraced by beauty. 

         What began as a very personal journey of rediscovery and newly imagining my own life has emerged into a lifelong exploration of imagining human community in dignity and diversity. In Community Art Practice, we joyfully engage in forming emerging works of art with others in a process that is open wide to the collective imagination and Beauty inherent in both the process of being together and experiencing the art that comes! It is an artful practice of forming dignity in diversity for the sake of bringing forth the beloved beautiful human community. 
In Community Art Practice we together become, Living Artistry.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Some Time has Passed - And New Hope RISES as we reach back and remember the task!

Particularly in these days, we in the United States whom are struggling with the present political circumstances of our country, have received such strength to stand and march, from our global friends!  Women and Men marched in over 60 nations trumpeting LOUDLY that Women are to be treated with equal dignity and respect in every way,  everywhere! Thank You!

Global responses to the injustice of an executive order against immigrants and refugees too have poured forth!  This resistance to hatred is growing. Shalom, wholeness can be the only outcome of persistent presence in solidarity with one another, even if it takes some time.

Empowering women and men in Nepal through Expressive Arts Therapy and Community Art Practice, is to engage in mutual sharing of the Good Work of Global Solidarity for the sake of justice!

It is this same Hope Rising that inspires Sadhana Thapa and I to push forward with bringing Expressive Arts therapy and Community Art Practice training to Nepal. Internationally, Expressive Arts Therapy has demonstrated strong efficacy as a therapeutic practice for healing trauma.  In addition, Community Arts Practice is well documented as a pathway for social transformation. Expressive Arts Therapy and Community Art Practice are yet to be formed as professional healing and transformative practices through Nepali cultural arts practices.  Sadhana Thapa, the president and founder of Expressive Arts Nepal seeks to do exactly that!
Last year, on my second trip to Nepal, Sadhana and I held college level introductory courses in Expressive Arts Therapy and Community Arts Practice with 25 students.  The previous posts of this blog share many of the stories of the experienced outcomes of this work.  Sadhana was also able to attend the first year of her Masters Program in Expressive Arts Therapy at European Graduate School in the summer semester of 2016.  These first year accomplishments were made possible through the generosity of many people in Europe and the US as wells Nepal.  This has been a truly global effort.

We are hoping to bring second year trainings through Expressive Arts Nepal in winter 2017.
The courses prepared and waiting to be taught include Expressive Arts therapy: Foundations, Form and Ethics, and Community Art Practice: Pathway for Community Transformation. The Expressive Arts therapy practicums are to include bringing care to human trafficking survivors, rural communities devastated by climate change and lack of resources, schools and places providing medical care.  Community Arts Practice field training will take place with leaders working  to transform villages deeply divided by the cast system, recently abolished by the new Nepali Constitution. Healing from trauma is a very common human need everywhere, and as Sadhana explains, the Nepali practice of Cast is equivalent to the US practice of racism. Receiving the economic support needed for teaching in Nepal provides opportunity for international solidarity to be given to others, much as we in the US, especially recently have received! Empowering our work together brings the US and Nepal more deeply into united efforts to transform our Global community into greater health, well being and peace.

We are thankful to have covered over $1,500 for our first year of expenses to provide trainings in Nepal and cover Sadhan's first year of Masters studies at the European Graduate School Arts, Health and Society Division.

We are in need of raising an additional $4,500 to bring about Expressive Arts Nepal Trainings this year and $3,000 to cover Sadhana's second year of schooling.  For Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world today, this is an almost insurmountable obstacle.

Please consider giving to our project as an opportunity to stand with Women and Nepal in an act of Global solidarity. Together! We can effectively engage the work of healing humanity and transforming our human community.

More stories to come of the newest efforts of our Nepali students as they engage the therapeutic practice of Expressive Arts Practice in their local communities and work.

Sadhana and I thank you for  your contributions!

To Donate go to:
To make a tax deductible donation:
Please send your check, designated Nepal Project to
Sunset Covenant Church
18555 NW Rock Creek Blvd.
Portland Oregon (7229

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gaining VOICE!


Voices Of Suffering

As an Expressive Arts therapist and Community Art Facilitator, I have witnessed the Coming Alive of women here in the US and abroad.  Statistics in the US and globally continue to show that women and girls remain marginalized, discriminated against and treated violently in a multitude of ways.  The circumstances for women only vary by degree based on a woman's lived experience impacted by the intersectionality of social constructs of race, religion, language and more..  Expressive Art Therapy restores the voices that have been diminished, devalued even silenced!  The Art making brings forth suprises that have been hidden sometimes for generations.  Wisdom, knowledge, insight, beauty, LIFE, joy, healing, strength, courage. LAUGHTER, TEARS and more move out from the core of women as safe space that engages the senses is provided.  As women find their own voice, the chorus erupts in community art forms which bring transformation to women, girls, families, caring men and society at large. 

Below is Sadhana Thapa’s experience of witnessing the power of Expressive Art and Community Art which has given motivation for the establishment of Expressive Arts Nepal.  We deeply desire to continue the work of healing and peace building.
Enjoy the story! And then Donate Today! J

In Nepal Girls’ and Women’s issues have always been under responded to in the family and in society. Female voice, women's rights and awareness have been always unwanted and unaccepted, just because of being women. Girls are always treated as second class members in the family, incapable students in the school, low skilled worker in the workplace and powerless leader in the Society.

Theater is one of the models of community art and expressive arts therapy. It is a form which speaks the personal sufferings that have been and are experienced, that women do not dare to speak about or stand against in their real world daily life. In such circumstances, I have witnessed the changing role and worth of the rural girls in their family. Knowing their core is the most valuable gift women and girls receive through the process of expressive art and theater.  This knowledge helps promote equality in the home and in the society. The drama places the individual suffering into one community voice. Community Art in the form of theater is proven effective and helps to educate and gather society around  issues of oppression and suppression and abuse women face. The theater has proven its significance as a means to freedom of expression for women against different social restrictions. 

Leading two years of the theater project in the rural villages of Nepal helped me to realize the power of expression for building self confidence and shaping the goal in their life. Some of the voices from the participants are given below: 

“I am the same person with different identity. Before joining the group, I was very shy and was not able to face the mass and also my community people used to discourage me to act in the theater. But now I am a bold, confident and creative theater artist, I also became a leader and creator. I can create a story on the issue and can prepare theater on it. I feel with this leadership and confidence, I can go ahead in my life. This journey for me is finding my destination in life.”- Theater Artist 
Now I feel, I have not lived as a human before. Being a rural girl, I was not aware of my capacity, my talent and my confidence. This is amazing to me to see my journey of a very shy little girl to smart performer, I am so happy. I have developed my confidence, and interacting skill these days and also became finest artist.” – Theater Artist 

 To Support Our Work Go to:


Tax Deductible donations with a note designating funds for Nepal may be sent to: 
Sunset Covenant Church
C/O Nepal Project
18555 NW Rock Creek Blvd.
Portalnd, Oregon 97229