September 8, 2020 | Margaret Carlock-Russo, EdD, LCAT, ATR-BC, ATCS, AATA President


After July’s virtual member meeting, members told us they wanted to learn more about AATA’s next steps in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)—and hear more from Gary Smith, our DE&I consultant. In response, we are excited to share with you this webinar, “Leading with Intention to Promote Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.” It’s an hour-long conversation with Gary Smith, co-founder of the IVY Planning Group, about how we create sustainable, systemic change for our organization and profession. I hope you’ll watch it, but also join us in this journey to ensure that AATA creates a welcoming, safe, diverse environment for all people from all walks of life—not just in this moment but for the long haul.

In reflecting on my conversation with Gary, a few things in particular keep echoing in my mind. Gary put our conversation into this current reality, referring to the Coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented activism after George Floyd’s horrific killing. While we are defining diversity broadly, he posited in this moment, we may consider focusing on race. 

Gary also reiterated the importance of AATA’s upcoming DE&I listening sessions. While he acknowledged that organizations, including ours, should already have been conducting ongoing listening sessions, these are important now more than ever. Half the battle, he explained, is for an organization’s leadership to just listen, and “give yourself permission to not solve it yet.” The second half, equally important, is to get organization members to participate wholeheartedly. For AATA in particular, we need the voices of all our members and the art therapy community at large so that we can build new strategies and solutions to ensure that diversity is embedded into every part of our organization. 

In addition, we’ve been thinking about virtual learning and connection differently. What started as necessity, due to pandemic restrictions, we are now looking at as a wonderful opportunity to increase access and engagement for many more individuals. For example, in the past, we often waited for our annual conference to network and share ideas. But now, AATA is not just waiting for a conference to bring people together—we can bring conference to people wherever they are and not just for one week but throughout the year.

I hope you watch this webinar and consider it a first step, and I personally invite you to participate in our DE&I programs and efforts moving forward, and share your ideas and views. Join in on MyAATA Forum discussions around this topic and many others that are important to art therapists. This moment in our history also gives us an opportunity to be better allies, so please invite colleagues you work with, and students, interns or mentees, to join us. In Gary’s words, “NOW is a terrible time to sit this out.” 

Margaret Carlock-Russo, EdD, LCAT(NY), ATR-BC, ATCS

Margaret has over 24 years of experience as an art therapist working with individuals and groups. She is currently serving as the President of the American Art Therapy Association. Much of her career has been spent working with people with health conditions or impairments and learning disabilities. Most recently, she has developed Chroma Soul Arts, an organization focused on providing community groups and retreats, addressing issues of aging, social connection, self-care, and wellness.

Margaret is also an associate faculty at Prescott College, coordinating their Expressive Arts Therapy Post Master’s Certificate Program. Prior to serving as Board President, she served as Speaker of the Assembly of Chapters (2016) and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair (2011-2015). Margaret’s academic research interest focuses on teachers’ understanding and integration of students’ social and emotional development within the academic environment.