EPISODE 3: Art Therapy Studio

Join your host, Mara Layne, as she discovers what ADA Cleveland member organization, Art Therapy Studio, has to offer the disabled population of Northeast Ohio. 

This episode features special guest, Cheryl Pete, Clinical Director of Art Therapy Studio

To discover more about Art Therapy Studio and their programs, visit https://arttherapystudio.org/


Disability in the LAND Episode 3: Art Therapy Studio

Also, available on Anchor



Mara Layne 0:00

Disability in the LAND. Episode 3: Art Therapy Studio. Hello and welcome to Disability in the LAND, the monthly podcast from ADA Cleveland. I’m your host, Mara Layne. Joining us here today is Cheryl Pete with Art Therapy Studio. Since 1967, Art Therapy Studio has been providing art therapy services to the community in Northeast Ohio. At Art Therapy Studio, you will find a staff of trained art therapists and experienced administrators who work with many community organizations and hospitals as well as individuals to help treat and heal those with a variety of addictions, trauma, mental health issues, injuries, illnesses, and stresses, among other things. Thank you for taking the time to join us today, Cheryl. So, first off, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners, including your role and its function within Art Therapy Studio?

Cheryl Pete 0:55

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. My name is Cheryl Pete and I’m the Clinical Director at the Art Therapy Studio. I’m a Board Certified Art Therapist, and as the Clinical Director, I’m responsible for overseeing all of our art therapists and our art therapy programs. So, some of my responsibilities include providing clinical supervision to our staff, helping to design our community art therapy programming, and also serving as the programming contact for our community partners.

Mara Layne 1:22

Wow, it sounds like you’re really accomplishing a lot at Art Therapy Studio. How did you get into this work? What’s your background?

Cheryl Pete 1:30

So after I received my undergraduate degree, which was actually in theater, I worked as a manager at a billboard company for about 10 years. During that time, I had some personal losses and I realized for myself how important art making is for my own healing work and I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if there’s a way to help other people use art to heal? And I’d never heard of art therapy before. So I did a little research and I discovered that there’s a whole field that is exactly that, helping people use art to heal. I found Ursuline College, which provides master’s level training the art therapists need and that was driving distance from where I lived. So I’m really glad that I went back to school and I’m so proud of the work that I do.

Mara Layne 2:12

There’s something funny that we share, which is I also have a bachelor’s degree in theater, and we both ended up working in the nonprofit disability field.

Cheryl Pete 2:21

That’s amazing! That’s awesome.

Mara Layne 2:25

Some of our listeners may not be entirely sure what art therapy is. Could you please provide just a brief explanation?

Cheryl Pete 2:31

Absolutely. Art therapy is a mental health field in which a master’s level trained art therapist uses art as a tool for self-expression, self-awareness and emotional help. Unlike art classes, art therapy focuses on the process of art-making in the content of the artwork, not the finished product. So it can be used with anyone, no matter what their artistic abilities or skill levels are.

Mara Layne 2:57

Wow, so it sounds like it can be really a time for everybody to be involved and work on what they need to through art therapy. Is that true?

Cheryl Pete 3:06


Mara Layne 3:08

In your time with Art Therapy Studio, is there a particular program that made the most impact on the organization and the community around it?

Cheryl Pete 3:16

Yeah, one of our long-standing programs is our Community Art Therapy Program, which is open to all adults in the community. And one of the best things about this program, I think, is that anyone can join regardless of their abilities. So in a typical group, you might have a person recovering from a stroke, a person with mental illness, somebody with a developmental disability, and maybe someone who’s retired and looking for other people to socialize with. And what makes our program so special is that these folks might never encounter each other outside of the studio, but in the in our space, they come together for a shared passion – art – and they build really strong connections. Some of our groups have been together for years.

Mara Layne 3:52

That’s incredible to hear. It sounds like the participants are able to build connections through their shared passion for art. What visible results let you know that Art Therapy Studio is successful?

Cheryl Pete 4:05

Well, there’s the art of course, but also our participants are really wonderful about sharing their experiences with us. And we also have great partnerships in the community and they give us really great feedback. I just feel so blessed because I encounter so many people that are excited about the work they’re doing and excited about working with us, which is great because I’m excited about it too.

Mara Layne 4:28

So, Art Therapy Studio has been helping people for more than 50 years, correct?

Cheryl Pete 4:34


Mara Layne 4:35

Any idea how many people have benefited from Art Therapy Studio?

Cheryl Pete 4:39

A lot. I don’t have an exact number overall in the 50 years. I can tell you in 2021, we provided services to over 3,000 individuals across all of the programs delivered by our art therapists.

Mara Layne 4:52


Cheryl Pete 4:53

Yeah, many of those individuals attend more than one session with us. So, last year, if you count people that we call repeat participants, we had over 10,000 encounters with people in the community. Of course, we were a lot smaller when we started in 1967, but that really shows over the years we really have served a lot of people.

Mara Layne 5:13

Yes, it sounds like it. And in your time working at Art Therapy Studio, is there a particular program that has had a great impact on you? Do you have a favorite?

Cheryl Pete 5:23

You know, it’s really hard because I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different partners that we have. But one of the things I have to say I am so proud of is how quickly we responded to provide services during the pandemic. So within a week of everything shutting down in 2020, our art therapists were calling to check in with our client artists and within three weeks of the shutdown we were launching virtual programming. We were offering virtual services to new members of the community by April. If you remember, everything shut down in March. And we also found that because we were able to mobilize so quickly, we were able to support many of our partners in launching virtual and even phone art therapy sessions so that we could support their clients and our whole community during such an uncertain time.

Mara Layne 6:13

Wow, it sounds like you were really there to support your community, especially during unprecedented events like the pandemic.

Cheryl Pete 6:20

Yeah. Yeah, it was an adventure.

Mara Layne 6:24

Oh, I’m sure, absolutely. That’s a wonderful way to frame it.

Cheryl Pete 6:29


Mara Layne 6:30

And your participants, do the most successful participants, the ones who benefit from Art Therapy Studio programs the most, do they have any particular backgrounds or skills before they come to Art Therapy Studio?

Cheryl Pete 6:43

You know, people come to us from all different backgrounds. I think something that’s really important is having a sense of adventure and also curiosity. So people don’t have to be good at art, or have any experience with art at all. It’s really more about the process than the finished product. And what I find is that when people give themselves permission to make mistakes, it’s a great way to learn in art and in life.

Mara Layne 7:06

Personally, I love that phrase – process over product. That’s beautiful.

Cheryl Pete 7:11

Yeah, we say trust the process a lot.

Mara Layne 7:14

Trust the process. Absolutely. Yes. I think you have to, especially in this field.

Cheryl Pete 7:19

You do.

Mara Layne 7:20

Art Therapy Studio offers community art therapy classes which are open for the community to attend. Can you tell us a little bit about that program and how people can take part of in that?

Cheryl Pete 7:31

Absolutely. Um, so we have about 11 different art therapy programs a week for adults, and people can sign up for a 10 to 11 week session, and it meets for two hours a week. It works a little bit differently than a typical art class where the focus is on teaching techniques. Our art therapists can definitely help people with techniques but what we really do best is encourage people to use that time to explore art materials, connect with other people, create art that expresses something or tells a story, and to use art as a tool for wellness. No art experience is needed. We provide the art supplies. We ask anyone that’s interested in joining, to schedule a meet and greet tour with our Studio Coordinator, which they can do by calling our office at 216-791-9303, or filling out a form on our website, arttherapystudio.org. And so we have them come for a tour before they sign up and we tell them more about all of our programs. We have financial assistance available. And get to know people a little better so that we could help you pick out the right program for you and where you would fit really well.

Mara Layne 8:40

That sounds great. And it sounds like that would be an in-person tour, right?

Cheryl Pete 8:44

Yes. Yes. If we do have virtual programming and so if somebody is interested in virtual programming, we can arrange a virtual tour. We have virtual programming for Ohio residents and we have some of our groups are virtual only and we launched this during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’d never done it before and we found that it increased access for folks that maybe would have never been able to participate in our programming.

Mara Layne 9:09

Similarly, if someone doesn’t have transportation to go to your studio on Fairhill Road in Cleveland, is there still a way for them to be part of Art Therapy Studio, and the community, and the community programming?

Cheryl Pete 9:21

We really recognize how challenging transportation is for many people. And we really want people that don’t have access to transportation to have a way to engage with us. So they can definitely participate in our virtual programming. We have a lot of our participants use things like Paratransit to get to us. We’ll continue to help advocate for better transportation access for people with disabilities because we want more folks to be able to come to our space.

Mara Layne 9:46

It’s funny that you bring that up because ADA Cleveland and Disability in the LAND podcast definitely share your concerns about transportation for people with disabilities.

Cheryl Pete 9:54


Mara Layne 9:55

And ADA Cleveland will actually be focusing on transportation issues, especially for people with disabilities, as an advocacy topic this year. So listeners, stay tuned for that.

Cheryl Pete 10:05

We’re really excited about being a part of that.

Mara Layne 10:09

We’re excited to have you be a part of that! I believe just slightly shifting topics, that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Art Therapy Studio will be offering some special programs to clients. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have planned?

Cheryl Pete 10:24

Yeah, absolutely. We are looking at some collaborations with some of our friends and partners in the community. We don’t quite have the details finalized yet, so we’re not quite ready to announce that but we’ll be taking the time to share ideas about how art therapy can help improve mental health and we’ll have some fun things in the works. We’ll be sharing more information as the time gets closer on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. So be sure to follow us @ArtTherapyStudio on Facebook and @ArtTherapyStudioCLE on Instagram.

Mara Layne 10:54

Well, I think it’s time for us to wrap up this conversation. And in that, we always like to state our mission. ADA Cleveland seeks to CELEBRATE the ongoing legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We LEAD in ensuring access, increasing awareness promoting independence and providing opportunity. We ENGAGE our community as advocates for positive change. And Cheryl, as a member organization of ADA Cleveland, how will Art Therapy Studio continue to forward the mission of ADA Cleveland this upcoming year?

Cheryl Pete 11:27

So at Art Therapy Studio, we passionately believe that art is for everyone, regardless of ability. That really is a core part of our work here at the studio. So we are focusing on supporting the arts community in expanding access to art experiences. One of the things that we’re really excited about is the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art that is from July 16th to October 2nd, 2022. This year our friends at FRONT are focusing on art as a mode of transformation, healing and therapeutic process, and we’re thrilled to be a part of that conversation as well as collaborating with other arts organizations in the community like SPACES and the Valley Art Center to find other ways to expand access to the arts.

Mara Layne 12:07

That sounds like an incredible way to further ADA Cleveland’s Mission. We’ll definitely keep our eyes on your website for information on that event, and we will share it on ADA Cleveland’s social media pages as well when it becomes available. Cheryl, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing all about Art Therapy Studio with our listeners.

Cheryl Pete 12:28

My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Mara Layne 12:31

You’ve been listening to Disability in the LAND. Special thanks to our guest, Cheryl Pete of Art Therapy Studio. Another special thanks to our ASL interpretation, which comes from Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center. Stay connected to ADA Cleveland by liking us on Facebook,or by following us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ADAinCLE. That’s ADAinCLE. Or visit our website adacleveland.org for a full video, transcript and ASL interpretation of this podcast. Have a question or comment? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email to ADAinCLE@gmail.com. This podcast is an ADA Cleveland production. Our producer is Emily Hastings. Administration is managed by Laurie Kowalski, with research by Mike Hammer. I’m your host of this episode and audio and visual technician. Thank you for listening.

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