Heuzey taught art therapy, and its lessons continue to inspire


For much of her life, Kathryn Heuzey was able to transform and enrich the lives of others by combining her artistic skills with her scholastic training to work as an art therapist, including at the Pilgrim State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in New York.

After graduating from Skidmore College with a bachelor’s degree in studio art, she earned a master’s in art therapy from New York University. While at NYU she was greatly influenced by the renowned Austrian artist, therapist, teacher and author, Edith Kramer. A pioneer in the field, Kramer is considered the mother of art therapy.

Kramer established a graduate program at NYU titled the Art Therapist’s Third Hand Intervention, which calls for the art therapist to be a ‘third hand.’ The concept is for the therapist to encourage and assist a patient’s creative process without imposing their own ideas or artistic values. It utilizes the true healing properties inherent in the creative process as a supplement to psychotherapy.

“Art therapy teaches you to express yourself, especially really psychotic people. It helps people to talk about their feelings, and being a part of a conversation, and to be sensitive to what people are saying. Schizophrenic people can’t really see the person,” she explains.

She says that when treating people who are seriously hurting, art can be quite calming and can help them to improve. At NYU, they were taught to work in many mediums, so as to better relate to and help troubled minds, often a complex road to travel down.

Through the artistic process, Heuzey was essentially teaching patients how to heal and move to a healthier and happier place.

“It’s how people can express themselves through art and helping them work through their feelings. While soothing to the patient, it is a tool in therapy to help a patient really get their feelings out.”

For example, she recalls working with a woman who was mourning the loss of her husband and had her paint a picture of a bouquet given to her by her children.

“The woman whose husband passed away, drew the background of her painting of the floral gift from her children in black. Art therapy teaches me to be sensitive to what troubled people are trying to say,” says Heuzey.

Heuzey says that what she learned through the study of art therapy and the hands-on practice of working with patients, helped her to become a better artist and teacher of art.

Although she and her husband were from Long Island, N.Y., they often visited Vero, and would then return home. COVID changed that; they decided to stay.

Having lived here for six years now, she has learned the lay of the land and has become more involved in Vero’s vast art scene. She also appreciates that the cultural offerings here are so alive and rich.

“I really love it here. The atmosphere in Vero is inspiring, partly because of the people. It’s gentler, more relaxed, an easier place to be. People are so polite; I even love going to the supermarket,” says Heuzey.

“I was so sad to leave New York and my big studio, but I have pared down in my smaller space. I feel very inspired here; the atmosphere of this place. It’s just a relaxing place to be.”

When she visited the Vero Beach Museum of Art for the first time, she says she was “just blown away. Their exhibits are so great, and the whole facility; they have terrific teachers.”

Interested in pursuing all aspects of art, Heuzey frequently takes classes at the museum as well as online, particularly the Great Courses site, where she recently purchased a class on drawing with colored pencils. “I now love drawing in color,” says Heuzey. “A lot of the masters said a good painting begins with a good drawing.”

Her drawing skills are impressive; even when drawn in black and white. Her exquisite pencil on paper portrait, “Katie,” 2022, was selected to be included in the inaugural exhibition Treasure Coast Creates: A Tribute to Local Artists, which was on display at the Vero Beach Museum of Art last summer.

Heuzey has found she also likes to work with clay and has taken classes at the VBMA in that medium as well.

Among her works are tall and skinny vases, contemporary works that bring a person to mind, although when one viewer suggested adding a head to the top, Heuzey declined the proposal, preferring that people draw their own conclusions as to her intent.

Heuzey has created giclée prints of many of her oil paintings, wanting to give people who like her work the ability to buy a painting without incurring the cost of an original. She says the idea came about as a way to gift paintings to her children, even after the originals had been sold.

A giclée is a high-quality reproduction of a painting produced with pigmented ink and printed onto canvas or high-quality paper.

“You have to start with a really good photo of the original, loaded into a computer, so you will always have that image to create another giclée at any time, to sell again and again,” says Heuzey.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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