The American Art Therapy Association represents a diversity of professionals, students, and organizations across the nation. We recognize and celebrate the work of our members at all levels through our Featured Member series. During National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 (September 15 – October 15), we are spotlighting members of the Latinx community.
October 7, 2021
Tell us about yourself
Hello, my name is Franchesca Lastra Vicente. I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and I’m proud to be a Hispanic! My parents moved to the United States when I was 3 years old to provide us better opportunities and a better way of life. I graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015 with a BA in Studio Art and a minor in psychology, and then went on to pursue a Masters Degree in Art Therapy from Florida State University, graduating in 2017. I am currently a Registered and Board Certified Art Therapist as well as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the Brandon, Florida area. I work at Brandon Regional Hospital as one of the lead therapists with their intensive outpatient services program, providing group art therapy sessions to adults.
I have experience working with children, adolescents, adults and older adults in a variety of settings including day centers, inpatient settings, homeless shelters, and senior living facilities. As of right now I have enjoyed focusing on building my career as an art therapist, building a family, and pursuing my creative endeavors. In my free time, I enjoy crafting and working with a variety of art mediums, including oil pastels, charcoal pencil, acrylic paint, and creating sculptures with found objects.
I have been a member of the American Art Therapy Association since 2016 and joined my local chapter in Florida in 2017. Currently, I am the president-elect of the Florida Art Therapy Association and have previously taken on roles as treasurer and assisted the governmental affairs chair with efforts to pursue licensure in the state of Florida.
How does it feel to be a Hispanic individual and what does it mean to you? How have you used art to honor your culture or heritage?
Being hispanic is fun! I love my Puerto Rican culture, and growing up in a Latino home has made me the person I am today. My mother would always say, “en casa se habla espanol” (at home we speak Spanish) so we would never forget where we came from. For some, it’s the feeling of waking up on a Saturday morning and smelling the fresh air of Fabuloso and hearing the rhythmic sounds of Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias on repeat. And for others it’s the food we eat, the music we listen to and the traditions practiced among family and friends.
I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to grow up Hispanic because it has allowed me to connect with different people of different backgrounds. But at the same time, it also has its challenges. At the start of my childhood I grew up in impoverished neighborhoods and saw how hard my parents worked to make sure their 4 children were able to get the things they needed. They showed me the importance of work ethic, helping those in my community, and striving to do the best that I can.
Within my own art, I enjoy focusing on showcasing elements of my culture through my family by using bold colors, shapes, and lines, as well as using ambiguous forms to allow others to make their own interpretations. I am also constantly surrounded by creative people in my family who inspire me daily, from my mother being a seamstress; my fiancé, a fine artist; uncles and aunts who are poets and writers; and extended family who are musicians, designers, and singers.
What have your experiences been like doing art therapy with Spanish-speaking populations? Do you think those clients would have had access to art therapy if you weren’t available?
I believe that it’s important to find representation within my community, especially being a Latina art therapist. When I first started in the field, I found it difficult to find Spanish speaking therapists, let alone Spanish speaking art therapists. After graduating and starting my first job, I worked in an outpatient therapy office where I was one of 3 Hispanic therapists, but was the only art therapist.
Due to this experience, I learned to grow more as a person as I learned from my clients. I began to learn more about different Latin cultures, too—laughing with clients about different ways we would say different words in our languages, and growing to appreciate more of the hardships and challenges that each person goes through while living in the United States.
Personally for me, the connections I made with those clients in contrast to other cultures has been very meaningful. My patients were happy to see someone they could relate with, and someone who could understand the conflicts in the home that, on a cultural level, a non-Hispanic therapist may have not understood. I would see many of my clients say things like “you get it; you know how it is” in reference to how Hispanic mothers would raise their children.
Then recently due to COVID I had to transition to doing sessions over telehealth, and eventually left that position. Unfortunately after leaving my position to pursue other areas of mental health, my patients were no longer able to access art therapy services because there was no other art therapist on staff. Additionally, they also had to be referred to a different agency because the other two Spanish speaking therapists had full case loads, and could not take them on due to their availability.
In what ways does attending a predominantly white institution (PWI) affect your art therapy training? Are their systems in place to address diversity and make transformative changes?
At the start of my graduate career, I was surprised to find out how few Latino students there were at my school let alone in my program, especially after having recently graduated from a school that was very diverse. Within the 3 cohorts that were with me during my time, there were about 5 of us who were Spanish-speaking out of approximately 42 students, and among predominantly white professors. While I don’t think that at the time there were changes being made, generally, these institutions can improve on including more diverse populations into their programs and providing more opportunities for individuals of the Latin race.
I would definitely love to see more Hispanic therapists and art therapists in my community. I think, over time, more opportunities are becoming available, especially since the pandemic, but more needs to be done! During my time at Florida State University, I was the president of the student art therapy organization and encouraged groups like the multicultural committee to be established. Recently I have integrated myself more in different work settings with more diverse groups of people — to not only feel more accepted but also to learn from them as well. With my local AATA chapter, we also introduced the BIPOC scholarship this year, which has provided opportunities for black, indigenous, and people of color with financial assistance to help fund their art therapy studies.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I enjoy working as an art therapist and I hope the art therapy field and mental health professions can continue to promote opportunities for Hispanic individuals and provide them the same opportunities as everyone else.
“Family Reunion,” by Franchesca Lastra Vicente. Acrylic on paper. 2012.
Artist Statement: “Family Reunion” was specifically created during a time where I was starting to gain more interest in learning about my ancestors and cultural roots. Many of my family live in Puerto Rico so we often do not get an opportunity to spend time together. So with this piece I wanted to create a moment in time where we could all be together. I feel that nothing can describe my hispanic heritage more than when I am with my family. Moments where we can just gather together to create happy memories and laugh. I chose to collage some of the old black and white photographs given to me by my parents and transformed them into a collective painting with all of us gathering for a family reunion.