The Multicultural Committee embraces an inclusive definition of culture. It provides information, networking, and mentoring for all art therapists to develop multicultural proficiency and increase diversity within the American Art Therapy Association. The American Art Therapy Association is committed to diversity and cross-cultural inclusiveness in its membership and in the development and provision of art therapy to the public.


Free Access Provided by: Expressive Media Film Library
Wheels of Diversity in Art Therapy: Pioneers of Color highlights art therapists of color in the United States who have been instrumental in advancing multicultural and diversity competence within the profession. Georgette Powell, Cliff Joseph, Lucille Venture, and Charles Anderson are recognized as Visionary Architects of Color in Art Therapy who foresaw that the integration of multiculturalism, diversity, social justice, and advocacy perspectives would lay the foundational framework for the practice of art therapy in a culturally diverse society. Art therapists who acquire multicultural and diversity competence and engage diverse clients with cultural humility ensure that clients will be respected, and their unique cultural identities will find an appropriate place in treatment. As art therapists strive to develop greater diversity, equity, and the profession, the pioneering work represented in this film forms a solid foundation for growth. For more information, click here


Pearlie Roberson was an African American artist and art therapy client. Through her art therapy work, she painted and sculpted powerful metaphors that explained how she felt about herself during certain periods of her life, her spiritual belief in Christianity, her kinship connection to her African heritage, and her feelings about the progression of her illness. As acknowledged by her art therapist, “Art-making profoundly affected Pearlie’s final months and days; it provided an avenue to her own strength that helped through dark hours of long nights. It gave her perspective and peace.”

The Pearlie Roberson Scholarship Award is specifically designed to provide financial support for an art therapy project or research project, undertaken by a Student or Professional member of the American Art Therapy Association, which targets multicultural aspects and capacities of art therapy. The award is based on the merit of the project proposal, not financial need. Recipients of the award are encouraged to present the winning project at the American Art Therapy Association Annual Conference.


  • Art Therapy Multicultural/ Diversity Competencies: Designed to clarify the types of multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills art therapists need to acquire to work effectively with persons from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups
  • Selected Bibliography and Resource List: Provides art therapy specific references pertaining to multiculturalism, social and cultural diversity, as well as social justice
  • Fostering Multicultural and Diversity Competence in Art Therapy: This course advances multicultural and diversity competence as essential to ethical practice and the cornerstone for effective art therapy practice (American Art Therapy Association’s Institute for Continuing Education in Art Therapy – ICE/AT #0207)
  • Multicultural Exchange and Programs: Annual American Art Therapy Association Conference
  • Connecting with a Multicultural Committee Member: linking art therapists and art therapy students with same racial, cultural professionals for camaraderie, supervision, and support


Art therapists of color began advocating for increased multicultural competency and support for fellow art therapists of color in the American Art Therapy Association as early as 1978. They formed into an official committee in 1990, first as the Mosaic Committee and later as the Multicultural Committee. A brief overview of the history, current priorities, and future directions was documented in the article:

Potash, J.S., Doby-Copeland, C., Stepney, S. A., Washington, B.N., Vance, L.D., Short, G.M., Boston, C.G. & Ballbé ter Maat, M. (2015). Advancing multicultural and diversity competence in art therapy: American Art Therapy Association Multicultural Committee 1990 – 2015. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 32(3), 146-150. doi: 10.1080/07421656.2015.1060837

Notable art therapists of color who were pioneers in the profession include:

Charles Anderson, ATR-BC

Founding Chair of the AATA’s Mosaic Committee (1990-1994)
Anderson is an African-American art therapist, exhibiting artist, and founding chairperson of the Mosaic Committee. He worked at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas and as a Recreation Specialist in the U.S. Army. Click here to view his presentation, “My Journey in Art Therapy.”

  • Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, Artist, Educator
  • One of the first AATA members to serve on the AATA Ad Hoc Committee Member, Third World People Group
  • Clinician & Art Therapist, Menninger Clinic, Topeka, Kansas (1962-2003)
  • Founding Chair, AATA’s Mosaic Committee (1990-1994). The Mosaic Committee served as a platform for raising awareness on cultural competence and fostering camaraderie and support among art therapists of color
  • Kansas Art Therapy Association Honorary Life Member
  • Adjunct Faculty, Emporia State, Avila, and Washburn Universities
  • Committee member, AATA’s first Ethics Review Board
  • Former Art Therapy Credentials Board Certification Exam Reviewer
  • 2000 Recipient, AATA Distinguished Clinician Award
  • 2008 Recipient, AATA Multicultural Leadership Award
  • Anderson, retired now, still works in a medical center psychiatric unit

“Everyone is having people make art, but art therapists bring a different level of training and understand art as a medium.”

Dr. Cheryl Doby-Copeland, ATR-BC, HLM

First African American AATA Board Director & First African American Recipient of the AATA Honorary Life Membership Award
Dr. Doby-Copeland is a clinical art therapist in the Washington, DC public sector with underserved & marginalized clients for 43 years, providing culturally competent art therapy to youth & families. She is an adjunct art therapy faculty member of the George Washington University and has served on a variety of positions in the AATA. Dr. Doby-Copeland was the first African American recipient of AATA Honorary Life Membership in 2018.

  • First African-American elected to the AATA Board, 1991
  • Adjunct Art Therapy Faculty, The George Washington University
  • Dr. Doby-Copeland’s service to the AATA has included:
  • Board of Directors 1991-2001; 2013-2018
  • Speaker, Assembly of Chapters, 2018
  • Multicultural Committee Chair, 1998-1999, Member 1994-present
  • Ethics Committee Chair, 2011-2013
  • Nominating Committee Chair, 2004; Member 1982, 2003
  • Helped establish multicultural competencies in the field
  • Recipient of AATA’s Distinguished Clinician Award, 2003
  • First African-American recipient of AATA Honorary Life Membership, 2018
    “There is a difference between language and action. Discourse is fine but, in my opinion, more action is needed. I encourage all art therapy students and art therapists to seek cultural competence training.”

Cliff Joseph, ATR

First African American Registered Art Therapist
Joseph was the first African American registered art therapist and founding faculty of the Pratt Institute Art Therapy Program. His democratic participatory approach to working in a psychiatric hospital is documented in his co-authored book Murals of the Mind (1973), interview with Anna Riley-Hiscox (1997), and reflective essay Creative Alliance: The Healing Power of Art Therapy (2006).

  • Registered art therapist, artist, activist
  • Attending the 1969 formal meeting of the AATA
  • The AATA’s first African American member
  • Original Ad Hoc Committee Member: Third World People Group
  • New York Art Therapy Association member
  • Art Therapy Educator: Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
  • Art Therapy Clinician and Director: Albert Einstein College of Medicine Hospital, New York City
  • Author: Art therapy and the Third World (1974), Murals of the Mind (1973), Creative Alliance: The Healing Power of Art Therapy (2006)
  • Documentary: Conversations with Cliff Joseph
  • AATA Journal Interview, Cliff Joseph: Art Therapist, Pioneer, Artist (1997)

“We have so much available to us that is creative, artistic. It’s been my experience that we can reach people more easily on those creative levels than we can by trying to discuss things verbally.”

Dr. Sarah McGee

Established an Afro-Centric Approach to Art Therapy
McGhee was an African-American art therapist who integrated cultural healing into art therapy by traveling to Senegal to learn traditional healing rituals involving art, music, dance, drumming. She also worked with migrant workers to advocate for economic justice.

  • Over Dr. McGee’s 50 year career as an art therapist, she used art and creative therapies with urban, poor, African American families, migrant farm workers, students, and multicultural groups for survivors of domestic violence. Serving youth was core to Dr. McGee’s community and school based practice.
  • Recipient, Project Impact-Special Arts New Jersey Award for Outstanding Arts Educator for students with special needs, and the Governor’s Award in Arts Education (New Jersey).
  • Traveled to Senegal to receive her Doctorate and study African healing traditions of dance, music and drumming to implement diverse and culturally appropriate approaches to use with clients.
  • Dr. McGee received national recognition for her work with New Jersey’s Amanda’s Easel Art Therapy program assisting children and parents coping with family violence and abuse.
  • 2001 Recipient, the AATA Women of Color Pioneers Award

“We bring a voice to the trauma experienced by the children. And, through painting, drawing, music and creating, the children address their terrors and learn to trust again.”

Wayne Ramirez, MFA, MS, ATR-R

Founding President & First Honorary Life Member of the Wisconsin Art Therapy Association
Ramirez is a Puerto-Rican art therapist who was the founding president of the Wisconsin Art Therapy Association. He advocated for a broad definition of art therapy in line with his work in special education and the Arts Mobile Bus in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Worked as a “house parent” at Southern Home for Children in South Philadelphia where
    he used arts and sports to engage with children experiencing behavioral issues
  • In 1963, was an art therapist at a residential treatment center for children in Philadelphia
  • In 1964, was Director of the Art Therapy Department at Milwaukee psychiatric Hospital
  • For over 50 years, Ramirez has worked in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Founding president and first Honorary Life Member of the Wisconsin Art Therapy Association (WATA)
  • Served as the Chair of the Arrangements Committee for the AATA’s second conference in 1971
  • Treasurer of the AATA in 1975
  • Hired as the first art therapy instructor at Mount Mary College
  • Created first internship experiences outside continental United States
  • Served as Pennsylvania’s first state Director of the Arts in Special Education Program from 1976-1978
  • Established the Arts in Special Education Program at the Victor Paris Special School in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico in 1989
  • Created the Arts Mobile Project, which was one of the first portable studio conceptualizations for rendering art therapy services for community needs

“As long as humanity exists, art therapy will also exist.”

Georgette Seabrook-Powell, ATR

Artist in the Works Progress Administration & Founder of Community Arts & Art Therapy Programs
Seabrook-Powell was an African-American artist in the Works Progress Administration who continued painting her whole life. As an art therapist, she worked at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC and founded the community art and art therapy program Tomorrow’s World Art Center.

  • Registered Art Therapist, Painter, Muralist, Illustrator, and Educator
  • Post-Harlem Renaissance Artist
  • In the 1930s, painted as a Master Artist for the Harlem Hospital Art Project of the Federal Arts Program/Works Project Administration (WPA)
  • Created public art murals to depict social issues, culture, community
  • Studied art therapy in the early 1960s, at the Metropolitan Mental Health Skills Center and the Washington School of Psychiatry
  • Taught art at D.C. General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry
  • In 1966, created “Art in the Park”, a yearly event at Malcolm X Park
  • In 1970, Powell founded “Tomorrow’s World Art Center”: focusing on using art to empower youth, community, and social activism
  • Art Therapy Clinical Supervisor, George Washington University
  • 2008 Recipient, AATA’s Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement

“Art Changes Things.”

Lucille Venture, PhD, ATR

First PhD in Art Therapy & Co-Founder and President of the Maryland Art Therapy Association
Dr. Venture was a founding member of the Maryland Art Therapy Association and the first art therapist to earn a doctorate (PhD) in art therapy. Her thesis “The Black Beat in art therapy experiences” (1977) described a historical account of the profession from an African-American perspective, as well as her work in the Crisis Art Therapy Program (school-based behavioral management) and the Kid’s Room (prevention).

  • Clinician, educator, mentor, and advocate for multiculturalism and social activism within the field of art therapy
  • Chair, AATA’s Ad Hoc Committee Third World People Group (1973)
  • Co-Chair of the 7th annual AATA Conference in 1976
  • First person within the profession to earn a PhD in Art Therapy. Dr. Venture’s dissertation &”The Black Beat in Art Therapy Experiences” was written in 1977
  • Co-founder, Maryland Art Therapy Association and the Chapter’s first President
  • 2017 Recipient of the AATA’s Multicultural Legacy Award

“It is my feeling that art therapy, if it is to be effective, must be approached in a manner which enables the poor to become actively involved, on their own terms, in the struggles against racism and poverty.”

Christine Wang, MA, ATR

First Chinese American Art Therapist in the United States
Wang is a Chinese-American art therapist who served as the Reservations Chair for the first American Art Therapy Association conference and Treasurer (1974-75). She worked at DC General Hospital and George Washington University Medical Center. She was the director of the art therapy programs at Hahnemann University (1978-80) and Goucher College (1980-86).

  • First Chinese-American art therapist in the United States
  • Early proponent for research in art therapy
  • Worked as a research assistant in medical psychology at Johns Hopkins University Hospital from 1964–1966
  • Worked at Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and Sheppard-Pratt Institute
  • Early promoter of clinical response art to explore countertransference
  • First art therapy position was at DC General Hospital in 1967
  • Founded the art therapy program at the GW University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and supervised interns from the GW Art Therapy Program from 1970-1978
  • Reservations Chair for the first AATA conference
  • Served as the AATA Treasurer from 1974–1975
  • Director and Assistant Professor of Art Therapy at Hahnemann University (now Drexel University) from 1978-1980
  • Founded the master’s in art therapy program at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland

“Contraries and opposition need expression, but so do convergences and harmonies.”