Museum Expressions: Language Learning and Art Therapy Workshop


Museum Expressions: Language Learning and Art Therapy Workshop

Tuğba Yıldırım Kumbasar

In this blog post, I share our recent visit to Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) with R3 students who had a unique experience blending language learning with the therapeutic aspects of art.

For this project, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Art Therapist Seren Pehlivanoğlu İlkdoğan, who developed “Müzede An’da” in collaboration with SSM inspired by art therapy and mindfulness principles. Seren leads Art Therapy workshops, where participants are encouraged to slow down, focus, and observe their emotions in the present moment while deepening their connection with artworks, artists, and their own thoughts and feelings.

Our shared passion for art, my interest in arts integration in language learning and Seren's focus on the intersection of art and psychology, brought us together. Through reflective conversations about our practices, we identified exciting commonalities in our practices and considered how these shared aspects could guide us toward a collaboration that promises to benefit a broader audience, particularly language learners in our context.

Building on these discussions, our collaborative efforts extended to our meetings where we planned a workshop: “Museum Expressions: Language Learning and Art Therapy Workshop.” The workshop had various goals, such as helping participants, who are English learners, understand the emotional depth conveyed through art in the "Müzede An’da" experience, encouraging therapeutic expression by creating art inspired by observed artwork to improve personal well-being, and using language skills to express and reflect on emotions, observations, and artistic experiences in the target language.

Throughout the workshop, we had the learners actively participate in various hands-on activities, including mindfulness exercises, close observation, ekphrastic story writing, breathing and body scan exercises, and the creation of their personal art therapy journal. The following are comments from some students, highlighting their takeaways from engaging in these activities during the workshop:

"Resim üzerinde daha derinlemesine düşündüm ve arka planda hissettiğim duygular öne çıktı. Kendi deneyimlerimin tabloyu yorumlarken yorumuma yansıdığını fark ettim. (I thought more deeply about the painting, and the emotions I felt in the background became prominent. I noticed that my own experiences reflected in my interpretation of the artwork.)”

"Sanat ile ilgili çok ilgisi olmayan biriydim, biraz da önyargılıydım. Faydalı etkileri olduğunu düşünmeye başladım. (I wasn't very interested in art, and I was somewhat prejudiced. Now, I'm starting to think that there are beneficial effects.)”

"Önceden deneyimlemediğimiz bir rahatlama seçeneği olduğunu fark ettik. (We realized there is a relaxation option we hadn't experienced before.)”

"Ben genellikle etrafımdaki şeylere dikkatli bir şekilde bakmam, ama resimi incelerken çok fazla detay buldum ve bu beni çok şaşırttı." (I usually don't pay close attention to things around me, but when examining the painting, I found a lot of details, which surprised me.)

The positive comments received after a 2-hour language learning and art therapy workshop brought me back to the objectives we set for this session. Witnessing the successful execution of our plan and feeling that it helped us accomplish the objectives further strengthened my belief in the transformative power of art as a medium in language teaching and learning. Additionally, on our way to the museum, students had mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness, unsure of what to expect. But, witnessing their transition from initial uncertainty to feelings of empowerment and accomplishment was truly rewarding. These reflections surfaced during the workshop's closing phase, where they shared what they were taking away and leaving behind. Most notably, they expressed that they didn't just take “art” with them; they no longer saw it as a separate discipline, as they experienced it as being powerfully intertwined with another discipline: language learning. My takeaway, on the other hand, was one of the unforgettable moments, making teaching an art in itself, with each stroke adding depth to the learning experience.