What is art therapy?
Art therapy, drama, dance-movement and music therapy are usually known collectively as the arts therapies. These forms of therapy are dynamic interventions with people experiencing difficulties. It is the intentional use of the art form as a healing and containing process that makes the interventions therapeutic rather than simply a participation in art, dance, drama or music for their own sake. Crucially, I would argue, there is not just a focus on the dysfunctional; there is far greater focus in the arts therapies (compared to the talking therapies) on emphasising the healthy aspects of clients' lives and developing these through action methods.
Adamson was always very clear that he was not an art therapist. Although he was a pioneer of the profession, he saw himself as an artist facilitating art making. This is important because issues of ownership, naming and copyright connected with the art created in a session are complex. Importantly, Adamson was feted for his collection - more so than most of the creators, who were only known by pseudonyms. His keeping and exhibiting of the objects, if it is to be judged at all, needs to be judged on the terms of his time: his valuing of the work was progressive. Now, however, their ownership and showing and their creators' naming need to be rethought with a contemporary gaze.
We know from the detailed descriptions of the research studio protocol (1946-1951) that the people were told their work was going to be kept by the hospital. It is not clear to what extent people working in the studios from 1951 to 1981 had a choice to keep their work. Adamson reports that many people asked him to store the work in the studios as they had little scope to keep artwork in the cramped wards; however, the art therapist Ruth Rumney mentions in her dissertation on Adamson (1980) that some of the creators she spoke with stated that they would have liked to have kept their work.
Some works were clearly donated to the Adamson Collection - for example, the Kureleks and Polonskas. The Adamson Collection Trust (established in 1978) obtained legal advice that all the other works are "abandoned chattels" - the Trust owns or looks after the works.