At Friedman Place, art is used both for fun and therapy to improve residents’ physical, mental and emotional well-being. Art therapy activities are lead by our Art Therapy Intern, Jenna Skelton.  A native of Edinboro, PA, Jenna chose to combine her love of art with her interest in being a counselor through a combined master’s degree in art therapy and counseling at Adler University.  She found her way to Friedman Place after a class assignment sparked her interest in working with people who are blind and visually impaired.  She enjoys the experience of working with different populations and the challenge of designing art projects that engage all of the senses.   Jenna’s approach focuses on the process of creating art than of the end product.  She believes that making art can help to put people at ease and open them up to discuss different feelings and emotions. 


Our residents are enjoying getting know Jenna and participate in new activities.  Jenna did not know much about sewing or textiles when she arrived.  Since weaving is so visible here and a previous art therapy intern did a lot of sewing with residents, she knew that our residents enjoyed those projects and wanted to provide a similar activity while getting to know them.  One of the first activities she led at Friedman Place was an arm knitting project.  Arm knitting is similar to regular knitting, however participants use their arms as knitting needles.  The project was very popular and some residents have continued arm knitting on their own.  Building on the success of arm knitting, Jenna to begin to introduce projects that were more her own ‘style’, usually messy and very hands-on.  Some of her favorites have been creating stepping stones from cement, melted crayon art, and working with clay.  With warmer weather coming, Jenna is looking forward to some fun outdoor activities that are sure to delight our residents, such as painting with squirt guns!  In addition to leading her art therapy activities, Jenna helps out in our weaving studio.  She talks with resident weavers as they work at their looms, adding to the social and therapeutic elements of the weaving program.  Her time in the weaving studio has taught her new skills and ideas for future projects.


Like many people unfamiliar with vision loss, Jenna was surprised at first at the range of vision impairment and abilities of our residents.  While all legally blind many residents have some vision left and some are totally blind.  Some have been blind their whole lives and others are still learning to adapt with vision loss later in life.  Jenna has been challenged to design art projects that can be adapted to fit different residents’ abilities and interests so that all gain something from the experience.  She was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and friendliness of our vibrant community, very different from the clinical settings she’d work in before.


Jenna plans to continue on as a volunteer through the summer, when her internship ends. Once her internship is finished, Jenna plans to complete her degree and take the exams for the certifications needed in her field.  She hopes to continue working with a variety of different populations and would love the opportunity to work overseas, experience criminal psychology in a prison setting, and work with cancer patients.  She hopes to one day use her experiences to teach art therapy at the collegiate level.  As she moves forward in her career she know she will remember her time at Friedman Place and the important role that art plays in the lives of our residents.

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5527 North Maplewood: Chicago, IL 60625 Phone: (773) 989-9800