By Barry Barbe
After moving 24 times during her lifetime, Kat Kirby was enticed to Prescott through a position with Prescott College and its graduate program in the area of Expressive Arts Therapy.
“I never really knew what I wanted to be growing up in New Jersey, but I was always doing creative things. The neighbor kids and I would perform plays in our basement for our parents, or gymnastics on the backyard swing set. I also made books, which I continue to do today,” Kat said.
“It was a very idyllic childhood, but once I turned 18, I went out on my own. It was the ’70s and my first home on my own was a cabin with no running water or electricity.”<br />
After earning a degree in art education and ceramics, Kat was a studio artist with hand-thrown pottery that would be hand stamped with poetry and sayings.
Through the suggestion of a close friend, Dottie, Kat began working with a state funded program working with blind and deaf children who had basically been left in the back wards of a hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“The assigned project for the students was to teach them how to assemble an 11-piece bicycle brake. A rather mundane mission, but one that if successful, would mean the student would be considered for some sort of employment,” Kat continued.
“There were four of us in the program and we began to realize that these kids were more capable than the task assigned to them, and we began experimenting on our own with art and music. We would bring in our guitars and drums, and we did whatever we could to help develop these students.
“We would place the hands of the deaf children on the guitar so they could feel the chords, and create art pieces that could be enjoyed by all the kids in one manner or another.”
It was this creative impulse and identifying the therapeutic aspects of art that would be the impetus for Kat’s future in Expressive Arts Therapy. With a new found passion, Kat did what every other person did in the ’70s — she went to the library to research her new career.
“We had no electricity, and there was no internet, so I began researching careers in art therapy, art education, the benefits of art, and whatever I could find … and found a program at Lesley College that had a program for art therapy,” Kat said. “It was a very new field, and I loved it.”
With her parents’ blessing, and grateful the cabin was left behind, Kat graduated the program at Lesley in 1978.
“This was a perfect career for me, because I really disliked the grading requirements of public education, and found it difficult to grade a child’s creation. It wasn’t art necessarily, but it was an expression of which they were, and something that these kids created. They showed up, completed the project to the best of their ability, and to judge that as you do an academic paper, was something I couldn’t do,” Kat said.
The next part of life spread from Newport, Rhode Island, England, and San Diego as well as a few places in between.
Landing in Prescott, Kat and her husband, Bill, who is a guitar Luther, settled on a property that allowed them both to have their separate workshops to continue their individual passions and careers.
Kat’s Clubhouse is an online workshop where she hosts weekly instructional classes on a variety of art mediums. Sessions may include collage, book making, as well as hosting artists from other areas of the country. Along with her local programs, Kat also hosts week-long expressive art therapy retreats all over the world.<br />
The retreats are a combination of art creation and therapy.
One of Kat’s favorite activities is the creation of Soul Collage Cards. “The creation of Soul Collage Cards can be used for the purpose of creating art, or as a means of self-discovery.
“Throughout the program, individuals create as many cards as they like or are led to create. Each card represents a place or feeling in your life and is used to help address and express feelings, issues and challenges.
“I love witnessing people finding their inner creative self come alive. I believe deep down that everyone is a kindergartener that wants to play and express themselves.”
Life, like art is a collage. A collection of memories and experiences, and when combined, allow one’s true self to become visible, if not to others, but to ourselves.
Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130AM, Saturdays at noon. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.