Art on Trial: Using Art in the Courtroom

February 19, 2014

A man kidnaps his two children, murders one and tries to kill the other. Brought to trial, his defense team uses the man’s lifetime of artwork to determine if he suffers from a mental illness. But who could unlock the information contained in the artistic creations? It would have to be someone who understands art as well as mental illness, in other words, an art therapist.

David GussakDavid Gussak, professor and chair of the art education department at Florida State University and an Emporia State University alumnus, will speak about his experience serving as an art therapist expert witness in the courtroom as well as the role of art therapy in corrections.

His talk “Art on Trial: Confessions of a Serial Art Therapist” will be March 3 at 7 p.m. in Webb Hall in the Memorial Union on the Emporia State campus. The lecture is free and the public is invited.

Through his work, Gussak touches on art history, criminology, forensics, psychology, and art therapy. He has conducted and published research about the benefits of art therapy in prison settings.

Gussak has published and lectured extensively on the use of art therapy in correctional settings and with violent and aggressive clients. His latest book, Art on Trial: Art Therapy in Capital Murder Cases, was published in 2013 by Columbia University Press. Gussak is a Ph.D. alumnus of Emporia State University and a former director of the ESU Art Therapy graduate program.

In his role at Florida State, he heads a department comprised of three graduate programs: art education, art therapy, and arts administration. It offers one of the few doctoral programs in art therapy in the nation.

This event is part of The Teachers College Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by several units, including: School of Library and Information Management, the Art Therapy graduate program of the Department of Counselor Education, Student Art Therapy Organization, Department of Art, Pre-Law Student Organization, ESU Student Chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association. The Emporia Arts Council is also a co-sponsor.

This is the second annual lecture in The Teachers College Lecture Series.

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