Graduate School Professor Recognized for Contributions to Field of Art Therapy


Robert Wolf, Professor of Art Therapy in the Graduate School, has been recognized by the New York Art Therapy Association for his service to the organization and his passion for the field of art therapy.

"It was a complete surprise," said Wolf, who received the Pam Clark Distinguished Service Award on February 9 at the Queens Museum of Art, during NYATA's juried art show reception and general meeting.

Wolf had served as the group's president in the mid-1970s, and more recently has spoken or presented workshops at several NYATA events. "I guess my history with the organization and ongoing contributions to the field were brought back into focus," he said. "I was surprised and honored to receive this award."

Wolf's connection to the NYATA stretches back to when he was a student representative to the organization during its formative years. His time as president was highlighted by the excitement of Creative Art Therapy Week and the resulting conference in New York City that was a joint effort of the national associations of dance, music, art, and psychodrama, he said.

It was an exciting time for the field, Wolf said. Practitioners were polarized between the ideas of art as therapy -- where making art is therapeutic in and of itself -- and art in therapy, which is a more psychoanalytic approach. Meetings were filled with this debate, "but the energy was helpful in forming an identity that eventually embraced both of these constructs and blended them into an "inclusive" one that we, as a field utilize today," Wolf said.

One of Wolf's quests these days is to bring back the idea that art therapists can offer clients "creativity development," outside of the current medical model. "Not simply using art to heal, or 'cure the ill,'" he said, "but as a driving force in our universal desire for personal growth; to become the best we can be, by learning who we are through personal insight and introspection and nurturing our creativity as an important part of our everyday lives."

Wolf maintains a private practice in New York City, is a Visiting Professor and Supervisor at the Pratt Institute Graduate Art Therapy Department, and is on the faculty of The Training Institute of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis and the Institute for Expressive Analysis as a Senior Member and Training Analyst and Supervisor. He is a practicing artist, regularly exhibiting his stone sculptures and digital photographs.

The award's namesake, Pam Clark, was also its first recipient. She was a dedicated art therapist, board member and volunteer who had a passion to promote an educational component to NYATA and was dedicated to the overall progress and excellence of the New York Art Therapy Association in the 1980s.

(Photo: Robert Wolf accepts the Pam Clark Distinguished Service Award. Photo courtesy of Deborah Adler, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT)