In this Featured Member series, AATA celebrates the work of our members. During the coronavirus pandemic, we are inviting members to share their experiences about how their professional and personal lives have changed.


October 19, 2020

What has changed in your job during the COVID-19 global crisis?

With the initial state, county and local shelter at home proclamations, I suspended my art therapy practice that includes up to a dozen clients spread over three northern Wisconsin counties for several months.

In what ways have your clients been impacted by COVID-19? How are you managing your own stress related to their experiences?

I suspended care for a period of time and now just recently have started art therapy sessions again. One client was seen via online Zoom conference call but the others were not seen for several months. I did stay in touch with all clients via telephone conference and text messaging during the shut down period. Personally, rather than find myself in a stressful situation, I found myself in a professional problem solving mode finding solutions to the unprecedented situation. Any stress that did develop was mitigated by the opportunities presented with more time to spend in my art studio pursuing my own creative journey.

In what ways has your living or work space changed?

I worked from home via telephone and Zoom video conference for several months. Now that I’ve returned to work it is with exclusive use of my art therapy space and observation of pandemic protocols of wearing masks, social distancing, personal space and materials hygiene. My concern was for my own health and well being, my clients’ health and well being and that of my family.

How do you view your role as an art therapist or student during COVID-19?

Zoom video conferencing was suitable for only one of my dozen clients. As I returned to in person therapy sessions, it was important to confirm with the client and/or care givers that the client would be comfortable following pandemic protocols of masking and the like.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

In my volunteer role as President of See My Art, Inc. (SMART), along with my capable Board of Directors, we launched Art to Go for Meals on Wheels to authentically and effectively service approximately eighty shut in seniors and disabled individuals in Sawyer and Bayfield, WI counties with weekly art activity packets. The packets provide mental stimulation, problem solving, creativity and socialization of the shared activities. You can see more on this here. Another unique pandemic period project involving SMART artists was collaborative project with the Downtown Hayward Wisconsin Business Group to colorfully paint an upright piano that is open for public playing in the downtown area. More on this can be found here and also at this link. It has certainly been a challenge shutting down, assessing the situation, determining pandemic procedures and developing new opportunities. In spite of that, it has also been an exciting and creative time. I am happy to be back servicing my art therapy clients, providing care for shut in seniors and engaging the SMART artists in a creative venture.

“Wisdom Heralding Peace,” stainless steel. Commissioned by The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. 2012.

The commemorative plaque that accompanies the sculpture contains these descriptive words: This sculpture calls us to utilize the wisdom of science to promote peace and to see God through learning. The sculpture’s conical shape depicts the Communion cup. The veil represents the Benedictine sisters and echoes the arches found throughout the main campus’ architecture. The dove mirrors the Holy Spirit and peace. The atom signifies learning through science. The light portrays eternal wisdom. The waves symbolize baptism and the waters of Lake Superior. The bluestone rock from the grounds of the main campus represents the House of Stone and the College. This sculpture was commissioned in celebration of the College’s Centennial. 1912-2012. For the Love of Learning.

Sara Balbin, BFA, ATR

Sara Balbin has worked as an art therapist in Northwestern Wisconsin since 1989. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior with a Masters in Art Therapy, and a registered art therapist (ATR) with the national Art Therapy Credentials Board, and a member of the Wisconsin Art Therapy Association. Her experience includes Euro-American, Hispanic, and Native American cultures. Her art therapy practice includes populations acquired via the State of Wisconsin Health and Human service agencies, schools and private individuals in Ashland, Washburn, Sawyer, and Bayfield Counties.

Balbin has experience in childhood, adolescent, adult and geriatric populations, with cognitive and physical disabilities, traumatic brain injury, cancer, acute and chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioral disorder, autism, depression, anxiety, anger management, and grief. As an advocate for social integration of people with other abilities and the arts, in 2012 Balbin co-founded and serves as President of See My Art, Inc. a 501©3 Nonprofit Corporation whose mission empowers, validates and supports people with disabilities through art. See My Art (SMART) also provides public display and retail sale venues both on land and on line for those participants touched by the organization. To learn more about Balbin’s practice and advocacy visit and on Facebook.