Art therapy in action – enter the clowns

Clowns in action at art therapy workshop

Clowns in action at art therapy workshop

Have you noticed how people change when putting on a new outfit or dressing up in fancy dress? That transformation can expose and explore someone’s personality even put a new perspective on their life.

So, at the Lismore U3A Seniors’ Day this year there were some fantastic personalities revealed when 8 people donned clown costumes and performed.

I was told, prior to this day, that the U3A members are ‘a bit shy’ so likely participants in my clown workshop might need some persuasion. However, once I had laid out the costumes individually one to each chair on stage it wasn’t long before all were taken and people transformed. I usually ask participants to do their own makeup to show their mood at the time but time was short and my assistant and I applied a basic clown face to each person.
Actually, my assistant just dotted noses and reddened lips until I met her in the middle and finished the other faces. I thought she had created a great minimalist way of seeing a clown face.

All clowns lined up behind each other, there was of course a march on to “The Entry of the Gladiators” or March of the Clowns and as they took off I immediately felt I had lost control of the group. And they marched up and down the aisles and around the room in strange style and laughing all the way. As the music stopped they lined up across the stage.

As MC, I announced each performer by their chosen clown name and their challenge.
Some challenges were:  ‘walking the tightrope’, ‘strong man’, juggling solo or in pairs to each other and the audience responded enthusiastically, cheering them on.
One of the clowns came forward to talk about the benefits of juggling for peripheral vision.
The ‘show’ had reached such playful, childlike heights that one clown asked to play ‘Oranges and Lemons.’  I had a vague memory of this game and was reminded of the going through the arch by one man who said it was the best part. Before I could MC the audience was singing the song full throttle and all clowns played along merrily.

Seeing these clowns eagerly queuing to go through the upheld arms of 2 clowns I felt so delighted these ‘shy’ people had taken over to control their own fun. No question about finding their inner child now.

I reminded myself that I am, after all, a facilitator. Who can plan surprises like these?


Liz is an art therapist and professional artist experienced in the areas of mental health, disability and community art. She is enthusiastic about bringing together artists and expressive therapists in promoting wellbeing in the community and proud to be President of NRAHW. She has a Degree in Graphic Design, Masters in Mental Health (Art Therapy) and Diploma in Diversional Therapy. Contact Liz 0421 974 703

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