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Keynote speakers

Dr Patricia Fenner, La Trobe University (Australia)

‘Direction “East”: Taking Risks in the Arts and Mental Health’

Responding to invitations from mental health and community services in Pacific Island nations and South East Asia presents cultural challenges and risk for the well-intended, Western-educated art therapist. Immersed in new settings where (western) building block constructs of ‘art’ and the ‘self’ may be cast differently, can mean working at the edges of one’s interpersonal and intercultural awareness and skill.  Understandings of what constitutes professionalism, ‘best practice’ and ethics in relation to mental health service provision and art therapy are experienced and revised in light of different histories, social structures and post-colonial realities. Using three case stories of consultancy and research collaboration in the Asia Pacific, some of the potential hazards, complexities and rewards will be explored.


Dr Patricia Fenna is Senior Lecturer, Discipline Lead and Course Coordinator of the posgraduate Art Therapy programme at La Trobe University, Melbourne.  She is a researcher with diverse interests in art-based research, art making and mental health recovery and in how the everyday material settings of our work play a role in what occurs in practice.  Prior to working in the university sector, she worked in diverse contexts including public mental health and school education, as well as, as a community artist in both Melbourne and Berlin.

J. Todd Frazier, Houston Methodist Hospital Center for Performing Arts Medicine (USA) 

'Assessing and Communicating the Value of a Comprehensive Arts in Health Hospital Based Programme’

Todd Frazier believes the arts offer a unique and dynamic common denominator in strategic collaboration that inspires innovation and transformation, while keeping us firmly in tune with our humanity.  The presentation will offer a multimedia overview of the Center for Performing Arts Medicine’s expanding programmes in artist health, arts integration, creative arts therapy, research and outreach, with a focus on programme evaluation through patient satisfaction and employee opinion surveys, clinical research, as well as financial and outcome data.  He will also review additional information on how the National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH) is supporting the field in the USA.


Todd Frazier is a composer, Director of Houston Methodist Hospital’s Center for Performing Arts Medicine and President of the National Organization for Arts in Health.  With more than 25 years forging and supporting research, education and accessibility collaborations between the education, medicine, and arts and culture communities, he recently supported the publication of the white paper ‘Arts, Health and Well-being in America’, ‘Professional Standards and Code of Ethics for Arts in Health Professionals’ and ‘Addressing the Future of Arts in Health in America’ (  In 2016 he was awarded the Luminary Award from the Eastman School recognizing individuals who have given extraordinary service to music and the arts at community and national levels.  On the Juilliard School’s 100th anniversary he was recognized as one of 100 distinguished alumni and profiled in the Juilliard Journal’s ‘A Quiet Revolution: Juilliard Alumni and The Transformation of Education in America Through the Arts’. 

Dr Debra Kalmanowitz (Israel) 

‘Art Therapy and Crisis: Supporting Communities through Art’

The impact of disaster on psychosocial well-being is increasingly acknowledged in the field of humanitarian aid and in psychological research. Drawing on her work in the field Dr Debra Kalmanowitz will address the use of the arts in situations of disaster. She will touch on the themes of trauma, resilience and toxic stress, and their potential long-term effects. She will look at the role the arts can play in mitigating and mediating this stress and explore what specifically it is about the arts and art therapy that make it a viable and relevant response across cultures and different circumstances.


Dr Debra Kalmanowitz, PhD, HCPC, BAAT UK reg. art therapist and artist has worked extensively in the context of disaster, political violence, trauma, resilience and social change, locally and internationally. She works with refugees, is a psychosocial professional advisor for IsraAid (an Israel-based International NGO) as well as teaches at the Academic College of Society and the Arts (ASA) (Israel). She is the co-author of The Portable Studio: art therapy and political conflict: Initiatives in the former Yugoslavia and South Africa and co-author of the edited books Art Therapy and Political Violence: With art, without illusion, Art Therapy in Asia: To the Bone or Wrapped in Silk.

Professor Vicky Karkou (UK) 

‘Dance as/in therapy and dance as/in research: current trends in an evolving field’

Dance is used in dance movement psychotherapy as the core ingredient that allows for communicating difficulties, processing of emotions and enabling therapeutic change. However what contribution can it make to the practice of talking therapies? Dance and other art-based methods are used increasingly in research studies as a way of sharing the subtle and intangible. Can it sit next to other research methods and interact with them in a meaningful way? This presentation will touch on these questions and, through examples, will consider ways in which to offer some answers, exploring current debates and imagining future directions.


Professor Vicky Karkou leads the arts for wellbeing interdisciplinary research theme at Edge Hill University.  Although a qualified dance movement psychotherapist, her research interests expand to all arts therapies, retaining an active interest on the cross overs between disciplines, engaging in a multitude of research approaches from systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses to art-based research.  She is currently working on the largest NHS-funded study on arts therapies in the UK and is conducting research with NHS services in the North West on the topic of depression.  She is widely published in peer-reviewed journals and acts as the co-editor for the international journal Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy.  She has published four books on arts therapies and dance for wellbeing.   

Dr Mitchell Kossak, Lesley University (USA)

‘Bridging the Past, Present and Future: Applied Arts and Health Theory, Practice and Research’

Throughout human history the arts have always been used in healing rituals and for direct communication and expression.  This keynote will focus on the historical roots of art for healing, and the development of the use of the arts in hospital and healing environments.  The keynote will also briefly examine where we are presently as a field and where we are heading through the lens of developing theoretical foundations, practice-base applications and current research trends.


Dr Mitchell Kossak is an associate professor in the Expressive Therapies department at Lesley University.  He was the President of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA), 2010-2017.  He has been a licensed mental health counsellor since 1994, and a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT) since 2009.  He is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Arts and Health and co-director of the Institute for Arts and Health at Lesley University.

Professor Shaun McNiff, Lesley University (USA) 

‘Art Is the Evidence: Making the Case for Convincing Public Communication’

Can we respect and perfect the ability of art to speak for itself, inspire, and convince rather than insist that art healing prove its worth through social science and translation into something other than itself? Art complements science in relationships where the partners maintain their integrity rather than reduce one to the other. The case for art and wellbeing may arguably be made in a more compelling way through evidence accessible to the public intelligence and its innate sensibility to artistic expression; not through increasingly standardized and lifeless academic formats operating at a distance from the common domain. Quality influences impact, so work needs to be done to effectively show how art enhances and transforms lives and communities everywhere.


Professor Shaun McNiff has a significant international following. He is author of Imagination in Action; Art as Research; Trust the Process; Art as Medicine; Art Heals; Depth Psychology of Art; and numerous other books. His works are translated into many languages and he has lectured and taught throughout the world. In 1998 he wrote Art-Based Research documenting his work with artistic knowing beginning in the early 1970s and the book helped spur the fast growth of the discipline. The recipient of numerous honours and awards Shaun McNiff was appointed as the first University Professor at Lesley University, USA, in 2002.

Professor Ross W. Prior, University of Wolverhampton (UK)

'Ten Years of “Building Bridges” in Applied Arts, Health and Education’

Since the establishment of the Journal of Applied Arts and Health ten years ago the world has changed considerably with new social pressures made particularly acute with the dominance of neo-liberalism and the pressures of the digital age.  Whilst art can be enlisted to assist in addressing a number of difficult and pressing health and wellbeing issues, there are still many policy challenges to overcome.  However there have been many ‘bridges’ that have been built, connecting art, clinical medicine, research policy and practice, therapy, education and government policy.  The field is now in a very good position to have its greatest impact yet.  But what stops us?


Professor Ross W. Prior is author of Using Art as Research in Learning and Teaching (2018) and is best known for his work in applied arts and health as founding principal editor of the Journal of Applied Arts and Health, established in 2009.  In 2015 he was appointed Professor of Learning and Teaching in the Arts in Higher Education at the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.  He has a record of research surrounding learning and teaching within a range of educational and training settings.  He is a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College.  He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

 Dr Nisha Sajnani, New York University (USA)

Dramatic Change: Outcomes from the NYU Theatre and Health Lab’

We know that drama therapy and theatrical processes like improvisation, storytelling, acting, and spectating can make us feel better and we want to better understand why. That is the focus of the Theatre and Health Lab at New York University (NYU). This keynote will offer examples of current studies and outcomes from the lab and offer questions to guide further inquiry.


Dr Nisha Sajnani is the Director of the Drama Therapy Programme and Theatre & Health Lab at New York University.  She is a founding member of the World Alliance of Drama Therapy and the principal editor of Drama Therapy Review.  Her artistic and written scholarship reflects an interest in the role of improvisation and performance in stimulating discovery and addressing concerns related to difference, identity, migration, and place.  Dr Sajnani is the recipient of the Corann Okorodudu Global Women's Advocacy Award from the American Psychological Association, the Gertrud Schattner Award from the North American Drama Therapy Association, and the first Diversity award from the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.