Eileen Wallach helps people find words they never knew they had. That’s how she describes what she does through Your Heart on Art, a Nashville nonprofit that she founded.
“We facilitate expressive emotional healing through art and creative expression,” she said. Participants in Your Heart on Art’s workshops and classes use makeup applicators and cotton swabs to create their works, because paintbrushes might be intimidating to those who don’t have art training. “It’s not about the finished product,” Wallach said. “It’s about the process.”
Wallach is a licensed social worker and earned a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Tennessee. She also has firsthand knowledge of the need for emotional healing.
Art helped her weather the loss of her husband of 15 years, who took his own life. “In my earlier life I was a victim of domestic violence so I’ve actually been using different forms of therapy throughout my life,” she said.
“Eileen has a special insight on how to help people deal with traumatic experiences, Your Heart on Art provides a unique approach, and our board is committed to providing this service to the community at large,” Moises Paz, chairman of the organization’s board, wrote in an e-mail.
Your Heart on Art works out of studio space in a building on White Bridge Road. It was chartered in August of 2012, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation under Internal Revenue Service regulations, and served 150 people in its first two months, she said. The organization has worked with the Davidson County court system, with Family & Children’s Service, and other groups. It is located on a bus line so people without cars can get there easily.
Wallach has been trained in the Art4Healing® therapeutic art techniques of California artist Laurie Zagon. Zagon initially developed her methodology in New York in 1987 as an art workshop to help Wall Street executives deal with stress. When Wallach learned about Zagon’s techniques, she had her aha moment. “This is what Nashville needs,” she thought. “We need to heal wounded hearts through the arts.”
The therapeutic art process that Your Heart on Art offers isn’t the same as art therapy, Wallach said. With therapeutic art, session leaders guide participants through the creative process and don’t offer an interpretation or diagnosis. Art therapy, in contrast, involves interpretation of artwork or diagnosis based on it.
Individual sessions at Your Heart on Art in Nashville usually last from two to three hours and include about a dozen people. Wallach asks participants three questions after they’ve completed their artwork: What was the easiest part in creating the art, what was the hardest part, and what do you think you gained. Participants say things like, “I can’t believe I was this angry or sad,” she said. •