Love a Tree? Art Therapy Changes Lives at Sheppard Pratt

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Notre Dame Preparatory School student Natasha Szymkiewicz stands next to her “Love Your Tree Poster, which was selected for reproduction by The Center for Eating Disorders.
Notre Dame Preparatory School student Natasha Szymkiewicz stands next to her “Love Your Tree” poster, which was selected for reproduction by the Center for Eating Disorders.

When you hear the words, “Love Your Tree” – the name of the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt’s annual poster-making campaign – maybe you don’t immediately conjure body-image messaging, but green activism or landscaping possibilities? Then again, if you know witty playwright/social commentator Eve Ensler (The Good Body, from which the quote comes; The Vagina Monologues) you easily make the connection between these posters “that confront society’s narrow ideals about beauty and embrace body diversity and self-acceptance” and the quirky slogan. By the way, watch Ensler’s brill one-minute video from the doc America the Beautiful after the jump, which explains how she met a fantastically confident woman in Africa, in a field outside of Nairobi, and was moved to ask her: “Do you like your body?”

“You’re a tree; I’m a tree; you’ve got to love your tree,” announced the woman after listing numerous physical traits she adored about herself.

We love the story. We also love the inspiring poster program through Sheppard Pratt started in 2006. This year, the Center received more than 200 posters, created by students from 20 public and private schools throughout seven Maryland counties. (More than 1,200 “Love Your Tree” posters have been submitted since the Center began the positive program!) On Tuesday, in honor of Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb. 24 through March 2) all spirited participating student artists were honored at an elegant reception at Sheppard Pratt.

One beautiful poster submission was selected for reproduction. Created by Natasha Szymkiewicz, a sophomore at Notre Dame Prep in Towson, “Unique” (see photo above) was inspired by Natasha’s personal interpretation of the campaign’s creative prompt, “Like a tree, my body is…” Note: You can check out the exhibit until March 8.

“Natasha’s poster stood out to us because of its strong visual impact, attention to detail, and powerful message of accepting yourself as you are,” said Julia Andersen, expressive therapy coordinator at the Center. “The quality of artwork and creativity truly reflects the artistic talent of Maryland students and highlights the devotion of promoting healthy body image. We thank local art teachers, educators and counselors for sharing their students’ great work.”

Art therapy is an important part of the healing process at the Center for Eating Disorders because such activity can enable patients with eating disorders to express emotions and examine complex inner conflicts. “This course of treatment helps patients become more aware of the connections between their eating disorder symptoms and a negative body image,” according to a press release, which makes total sense — art-making and art-appreciating can help us clarify so much psychic junk, no?

“This year’s campaign attracted many talented participants with diverse portrayals of the ‘Love Your Tree’ theme,” said Steven Crawford, M.D., the Center’s associate director. “‘Love Your Tree’ is a valuable educational tool that teaches students of all ages the importance of positive body image and body acceptance in yourself and others. The Center is proud to sponsor this important program and we congratulate all of this year’s participants.”

Schools interested in being notified of next year’s “Love Your Tree” poster campaign, which will launch in July 2013, may contact Andersen at [email protected] or (410) 938-5252.

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