From Russia with Love
by Patricia J. Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The mere mention of Siberia conjures up images of desolation, bitter cold, and snow. Lots of snow.
Not a subject artists have dwelt on much. Not a location that leaps to mind at the mention of things academic. One does not normally expect to encounter Fulbright professors materializing from such an ostensibly frozen wilderness, especially Fulbright professors whose work and research centers on the power of art and whose academic seat is a storied university whose history goes back to the 19th century.
But it was from precisely that seemingly forbidding locale that Tatiana Vaulina—teacher of art therapy at Siberia's Tomsk State University—came to Marywood and Northeast Pennsylvania. She quickly corrected any preconceived notions and won the hearts of all in the community. With the aim of learning as much as possible about American educational approaches and techniques in art as a healing, therapeutic process, she worked with Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell, observing art therapy and psychology/counseling classes, as well as visiting sites across the region—with stops in Abington schools to meet students, help with Russian classes, and speak to the school's Slavia Honor Society.
"Students were very interested in Russian culture and traditions and asked me a lot about it," Ms. Vaulina said. "They were so excited to know that I came from Siberia. I made presentations about Russia for American children who have been learning Russian. I know how important it is to meet the real representative of the culture, the language you are learning. They asked me a lot of questions about my culture, and it was an honor for me to help them with Russian."
In America, as in Russia, sharing knowledge of creative therapies can make a difference for individuals who face challenges that have no international boundaries. Whether in Siberia or Scranton, the turbulent adolescent years bring problems. Ms. Vaulina was especially interested in work being done with the Lupus Foundation here, and the potential role art therapy might play in helping individuals deal with the pain of this crippling illness. The opportunity to see and evaluate art therapy techniques as a means of reaching and helping troubled teens was another area of special interest to her, as it has been to Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell.
Recognizing the benefits of their international relationship, and knowing that airplanes fly both ways, Dr. Parker-Bell set off for a reciprocal visit to Tomsk University last summer. She found no snow (but lots of mosquitoes), long days lit by the lingering sunlight of a location near the Arctic Circle, warm friendships, and multiple opportunities—including a chance to present to classes of her Russian counterparts and discuss their work and experiences, especially with teens and orphaned children.
Better yet, her Siberian saga was ready for the next chapter. Dr. Bradley Janey of Marywood's Psychology and Counseling Department had also made the journey to Tomsk University as a Fulbright scholar in January (when he did find plenty of snow, but was spared the mosquitoes). Recognizing the advantages of a Marywood-Tomsk association, Drs. Janey and Parker-Bell joined forces with Ms. Vaulina to build on a project that she said began "as a little video meeting."
That meeting has developed into an innovative program, Global Perspectives in Creativity, Art, Art Therapy, Counseling and Psychology, linking the universities via satellite.
"The aim is to provide an opportunity to investigate the academic thinking that guides the practice of psychological and creative therapies within our two countries," said Dr. Parker-Bell.
For further information, visit the website: www.marywoodandtomsk.wordpress.com
Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell, Marywood art therapy professor, and Tatiana Vaulina, art therapy teacher from Tomsk State University, in Siberia.