Art Therapist Spotlight: Dr. Michael Franklin

(Excerpt from the Art Therapy Association of Colorado’s Fall Newsletter)

I began our interview on a beautiful summer afternoon, relaxing in the peaceful backyard of Michael Franklin, PhD, ATR-BC. Michael is currently the Coordinator for the Transpersonal Contemplative Art–Based Counseling Program and Director of the Naropa Community Art Studio at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. This is his third academic appointment. Prior to arriving at Naropa University in 1997, he directed the art therapy programs at Bowling Green State University and at the College of Saint Teresa. Read below to learn a more about this prominent art therapist in Colorado. You can also visit his website,

MS: What originally drew you to the field of art therapy?
MAF: Books, great mentors, and a safe childhood that valued intense imaginal play. I was one of those children who had a very strong interest in the way things looked and appeared. I was fascinated by bugs, clouds, water, even dead things and would innately respond to what I saw through drawing and making up stories. My high school years were challenging, as my father was very sick, always in and out of the hospital. I didn’t understand what I was going through and somehow intuitively knew to spend a lot of time in the art studio. My high school had a wonderful art department with a very innovative teacher. It was there that I started to learn how to inwardly make sense out of the confusing events in my life. Eventually my father died when I was 15 and the benefits of art intensified. I went back, again and again to that art studio to work with materials and processes in order to understand what was happening for me. More and more, art became a reliable partner of contemplative place where I could lose and find myself. I also became interested in yoga and meditation at this time.I knew I was going to study art in college in the 70’s. Art therapy was practically unheard of at this time. I was a very serious art student focusing on lithography, ceramic sculpture, and photography. I also double majored in art education with a minor in psychology. I did my student teaching at a county magnet school for kids with disabilities – orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, auditory limitations, and severe emotional challenges. At this time I also had an amazing professor and mentor, Richard Loveless who was a student of Viktor Lowenfeld. He was involved in community-based arts in Ybor City which at the time was a very poor neighborhood in Tampa. In the late 60’s Richard created a community art studio called the New Place as part of his research. It was quite successful and became an important part of this modest historic neighborhood. Additionally, Richard gently insisted that we go out into communities that were new and uncomfortable in order to bring art experiences to people who had access to the arts. To this day he and I are still close. His teaching methods and philosophy continue to guide my views about art and working within communities. It was also at this time that I studied ceramics with MC Richards, another great mentor and influential person in my life.After college I moved to New York City. I was trying to be an artist while working in a professional photography studio. One day I was out delivering a job and stopped by the bookstore at NYU. As I rounded the corner, right in front of me was a book by Edith Kramer. I bought it, read it and decided to apply to graduate school. I went to George Washington University where I was very fortunate to have teachers who were pioneers in the field – Bernard Levy, Elinor Ulman, Edith Kramer, and briefly Hanna Kwiatkowska. I would spent many summers with Elinor at her Vermont farmhouse helping her out with cooking, gardening, and other chores. She was often editing articles for The American Journal of Art Therapy, which she started. She would asked me to read what she was editing, comment, and then we would take walks together in the forests or go canoeing and have long philosophical discussions about art therapy. She is very important to me as I learned a great deal from her and deeply valued her friendship. These are just some high-notes of how I found my way.Read the full interview here.

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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

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