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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Wellness through creativity

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Courtesy of the artist
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Margy Hunter
"No," a painting by Margy Hunter

Margy Hunter works with adults, couples, and families, helping them through loss, life changes, the blending of families, and parenting struggles. A former art teacher who’s now an occupational therapist and psychologist, Hunter uses a variety of techniques, drawing from psychotherapy resources and her occupational therapy training. Art therapy is one of her most powerful tools to reach at-risk youth. It’s also her personal form of expression on issues she cares about deeply.

A conversation with Margy Hunter

“I grew up across from Michigan State University at a time when there were protests going on in front of my home,” Hunter says. “It was a very big time protesting the Vietnam War. My dad was a newspaper reporter, and my mom was an artist and art teacher. Those were my formative years. We had a potter’s wheel in the basement and a loom in the living room. My mom painted every day, and I was a part of all that.”

Hunter is a former teacher in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, a limited licensed psychologist, and a licensed occupational therapist. A BFA graduate of the University of Michigan, Hunter attended graduate school at Western Michigan University where she received both a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy and a Master of Arts in counseling psychology.

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Zolton Cohen
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Margy Hunter
Margy Hunter

“As an occupational therapist, I was driven to find ways to interlace art and emotional mental health and social issues,” she says. “I’m a strong believer that the arts in school are an imperative part of education for emotional expression, which is something that all kids need. Many kids who are struggling are just so profoundly talented. So, you can point out their successes before their very own eyes.”

Hunter says children who have experienced trauma can heal through the visual arts, especially when they can create with their hands. She says the arts can help calm emotions and assist in reducing the need for medication.

“There is a profound opportunity in the arts for healing without masking the pain,” Hunter says.

At first, Hunter’s own art tended toward experimental painting that explored different forms and styles. But during her years teaching art, she moved more toward expressing social issues in her paintings. While many of them show Michigan nature scenes, others involve people pressed against boundary fencing at the U.S. border with Mexico, among other forms of protest.

“When I was an art teacher, I became more in touch with the inequities in education, particularly about racial issues, about poverty,” she says. “It really pulled at my heartstrings.”

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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