Art and Adolescents
Adolescence has come to be known as the “liminal stage,” a place where one stands in the threshold…”betwixt and between” inward and outward change. This phase of life is known for its difficulty as well as its significance. In the approach of adulthood, cultures around the world hold rites of passage, initiations, and celebratory acts to mark this change. As mentioned in previous art therapy blogs, we mark change by giving it meaning, by making it special. This is most often done through rituals. If you look closely, you may find a number of rituals and patterns in the lives of adolescents, through the way they greet each other or behave together. This is what makes peer groups, both positive and negative, appealing to this age group. Having these predictable, rehearsed actions available to adolescents aids in containing a phase of life which seems uncontainable. By giving adolescents the room to observe and enact healthy rituals, we offer them the opportunity to thrive.
Adolescent art often echoes ritual or group-related behavior, as it pertains to a sense of identity development. Graffiti art, which developed out of the adolescent movement of hip-hop, involves group activity, in a repeated and ritualized form, in order to create a group/self-symbol. Graffiti requires practice, teamwork, and perseverance, which are all values we hope to instill in teenagers. Graffiti art therapy has even been developed, in order to encourage struggling artists (and non-artists) by using the skills they already possess. Adolescents may write their name incessantly on a notebook, a bathroom stall, or a public building in search of a sense of identity that is appropriate for this season of life. Therefore, it is important that they have accepted venues for this soul-searching. Some public spaces have devoted walls to allowing graffiti artists to express themselves, while others have created alternative creative outlets for teens. Nevertheless, by respectfully listening for the rituals which matter to a teenager, we have the opportunity to provide safety in their exploration of adolescence.