Last month, a group of students moved into the building for the one-week Artist Residency, an annual opportunity for artist-students at The Seattle School to live in community and explore the creative process. This year’s theme was “Becoming Whole,” and the work created during the residency is currently on display in our 2nd Floor Gallery. Here, Joy Hilliker, a third-year MA in Counseling Psychology student, reflects on her experience participating in the residency.

Wilfred Bion theorized the belief that our own creative processes must be engaged to begin the work of unraveling psychic problems. As I headed to the Artist’s Residency possessing a mixture of anticipation, anxiety, and the nagging sense that I was an imposter calling myself an artist, I clung to Bion’s words for hope.

Residency Amber Englund, Joy Hilliker, Millie Hodnett, Julia Jenkins, Bethany Bylsma recreate the iconic La Danse painting in the 2nd Floor Commons.

I attempted to imagine what might loosen within me as I engaged my creative self in whatever way I showed up. As I observed the other participants arriving and forming their creative spaces, I noticed we all formed our spaces next to each other, as if we knew that the process of becoming whole would need to happen within community and not isolation. What became of the week was a gathering of a few people who deeply connected and formed their own version of what it means to call themselves artists.

Amber Englund, MA in Counseling Psychology '15 Alumnae. Photo by Kelsey Paulsen.

Amber Englund, MA in Counseling Psychology ’15 Alumnae. Photo by Kelsey Paulsen.

As we lived together, sharing meals and time, we realized an awakening of sorts was happening for each one of us as we beheld the week’s theme of ‘becoming whole.’ We grieved the parts of us that have been in hiding and spoke about the ways we have silenced ourselves or been silenced. Edging our way to a more whole version of ourselves always involves grieving and having a witness to that grief.

As we created together, our most authentic parts were being expressed in the open space we created, and I was reminded again that our multiple selves do not become whole without the reflection of the other mirrored back to us, revealing our worth and goodness. We howled like wolves, engaged our primal screams, danced under the stars, and found that within that generous space, art and stories were being revealed through our very lives and creations.

As a future therapist, I will be working alongside my clients as they venture toward self-congruency. Together we will be calling forth a self that more accurately portrays their truest self, one that they will attempt to wear more in the open and less in hiding. The expression of art rarely allows for a false self to take center stage, as artistic expression reveals most of what is held in the deep unconscious of our beings. The Artist Residency gave room to explore a broader idea of who I am: a griever, a howler, a dancer, an artist, and, most of all, a person who desires to be known both in my beauty and in my brokenness.