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February Artist of the month: Briana Benn-Mirandi of art and soul therapy

February’s Shoreline Arts Alliance Artist of the Month is

Briana Benn-Mirandi. Briana is the owner of

Art and Soul Therapy, a small psychotherapy practice

in Madison, CT. Briana recently partnered with SAA to

launch our newest program, Expressions in Art, and

her help was invaluable to the success of the program,

which focuses on improving mental health through

community participation in the arts. We interviewed

Briana, learning more about her practice and her personal

history, as well as what the arts mean to her.

Before starting her practice, Art and Soul Therapy, Briana received her MA in Art Therapy and worked in Therapeutic Recreation for 13 years. However, she eventually found herself “burnt out” and “in need of healing.” After stepping away from Therapeutic Recreation, Briana was an adjunct professor at Middlesex Community College for college students seeking TRD certification. This experience helped her transition to helping a different population, in a different way, through art therapy. After going back to school to complete her master’s degree and receive two professional licenses, she opened her own private practice. She told us, “That was my personal motivation to begin this path, but as my motivations grew, so did my practice.” The arts have greatly impacted Briana's life and motivated her to help others through artistic expression.

Briana's Art and Soul Art Therapy practice includes a wide range of arts programming and art therapy. We asked about her practice and working with her clients, and she commented saying, "I love to meet my clients where they are, exploring the mediums they would like to work in."' She expressed that she is blessed to accompany her clients on their unique artistic journey. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Briana says that her new motivations are to return to training students and give them access to creative therapies. She explained to us that the arts are a healing instrument for not only clients, but also for herself. When asked about her motivations to begin working as an art therapist, she told us, “My road in art therapy has been a long one, beginning in my roots as an angsty-artsy teen in need of therapy myself.”

On a more personal level, her favorite art is that which has a sense of "wonder and child-like excitement,” Briana expressed to us. Specifically, she loves fantasy illustrations and figure sculpture. When asked to elaborate, she explained, “It's an attribute which has persisted through childhood and now allows me to connect to my younger clientele with similar interests.” Briana explained to us that she is always exploring new things. She expressed her new interest in digital art, commenting, “it's a really amazing experience to be able to take my whole "studio" out into nature, or to be making art at family gatherings, with no mess or cleanup, no drying times- just instant access where I left off in my work.” She elaborated on her love of work done by professional concept artists and animators, saying that the art form “has really ascended to new heights.” In her interview, Briana also discussed her interest in video games, telling us how she loves aesthetically pleasing, story rich games– from horror to immersive fantasy worlds. She said, “It's really exciting to see how the old 2-D animation effects are being married to digital rendering in many games and animation, breathing new life into a beloved art form that sat unused for a decade or so in the wake of more realistic digital art.”

Finally, we asked Briana what the arts mean to her. She said, “The arts have been a way towards healing, both for myself, personally, and what I teach my clients.” She explained that art can help us ponder the deepest questions in life and help us have reflection in life. But it can also be lighthearted and silly. Art can capture people’s emotions and express it to others in a creative way. “I also love the arts that transport us into another world entirely, for a matter of hours at a time.” In a way, art is thought of as an escape from the world around us and pressures of life.

Briana’s work has a tremendous impact on people in need of mental therapy and she guides those individuals as they seek out alternate, creative ways to not only cope, but to thrive. There are limited creative therapy programs like this around, and it goes without saying that what Briana is doing for our community is vastly important. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, her work has been more crucial than ever. Briana has helped both herself and her clients through the arts, guiding everyone she works with to help them express themselves and their challenges through artistic expression. Briana’s final statement to us was, “It’s important to remember that although our challenges in this world seem to be mounting, so, too, are our cures."


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