Redefining the Classroom

For student psychologist, art is tonic

Posted: September 17th, 2013

VISUAL REMEMBRANCE – Lake Superior State University senior psychology student Crystal Drake poses with one of the works on exhibit the LSSU Arts Center gallery. Drake draws inspiration from the healing qualities of visual art and through people of strength who continue to touch her life. This particular piece, Forget Me Not, honors her grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. (LSSU/Helena Wollan)

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LSSU Public Relations Office

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - A Lake Superior State University senior psychology student hopes to channel her artistic passion towards a future in art therapy and research. Crystal Drake, who will graduate this spring with a degree in psychology, draws inspiration for her work from the healing qualities of visual art and through people of strength who continue to touch her life.

A showing of Drake's work is up in the LSSU Arts Center gallery through the end of September.

Drake uses mixed media that are not only eye-catching, but, she hopes, soul-soothing as well. She draws upon clay, mirrors, paint, a dress form, glitter, found objects, paper, string, wood, foil, magazines, and even photography she has captured.

One of her favorite creations, Forget Me Not, honors a grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

“As we experimented with different creative outlets to provide her therapeutic stimulation, my grandmother and I found ourselves laughing and enjoying our lives together again,” says Drake. "She was by far the most spiritual, beautiful, and inspiring woman I have ever been blessed to have in my life. She chose to raise me, she chose to help me, and she has inspired me to look within myself and discover who I was meant to become."

The experience inspired and challenged Drake to take her career plans into a new direction.

“I came across the field of art therapy and how it is helping people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia lead a higher quality of life,” she says.

Drake plans to pursue a master's degree in art therapy after graduation with an eye towards opening a practice that helps patients. After an initial career in therapy, she would like to continue post-graduate training in Alzheimer's research.

Another one of Drake's art works, Found Objects, features wood canvas, spray paint, and, as the title suggests, found objects. To create it, Drake salvaged ordinary and often overlooked objects and put them together to create a thought-provoking piece.

“During the time I spend walking, I begin to notice many beautiful things. Unfortunately, I also notice many not-so-beautiful things, such as garbage thoughtlessly thrown on the ground," says Drake. "Feeling frustrated and disappointed with the carelessness of others, and drawing inspiration from the song 'It’s Not Easy Being Green,' I began to pick up trash I found on my walks, in hopes of turning it into something beautiful.”

She wants the piece to share a message of re-examination and reuse that everyone can remember. It may not be easy being Green, Drake adds, but with a little time, thought, and love, the raised awareness it provides can be a fulfilling experience.

Another work, Krystal is Better Than Crystal, is dedicated to a best friend who died at a young age from colon cancer.

“Krystal was kind, beautiful, and had a laugh that stays with me to this day,” says Drake. "The color blue in the piece represents colon cancer awareness; the 31 butterflies represent the 31 years she spent making this world a brighter place. Krystal always believed in me becoming an artist. Unfortunately, at the time, I did not believe in myself the same way she did.”

Drake's work is on display during hours that the Arts Center is open. The gallery can be reached for more information at 906-635-2067.


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315.