Expressive Arts in Human Development: An Interview with Dr. Chris Rogutsky

Dr. Chris Rogutsky
Dr. Christine Rogutsky

In December we learned that LIHSA’s three new CTE programs have been approved by New York State! We are thrilled to begin offering Sonic Arts, Expressive Arts in Human Development, and Game Design programs during the 2021-22 academic year.  This week we’d like to share more information about one of our new programs – Expressive Arts in Human Development – with our LIHSA Community.

Music Therapist Jenn Pacht-Goodman graduated from LIHSA in 1988. “My music therapy program is one of the premier practices in the state of NJ perhaps the country. We service over 75 individuals weekly, and are contracted with over 20 schools public and private in NJ,” she said. Jenn found music therapy as a career after graduating the Boston Conservatory of Music and performing professionally. She elaborates, “I never looked back. My true calling was to use my musical talents, my voice, my big bright energy and personality and change the lives of children with autism.”

Please enjoy our spotlight on Expressive Arts in Human Development.  Get to know this program through an interview with LIHSA Principal, Dr. Chris Rogutsky.

What is the inspiration for this program?

I believe that engagement with the creative arts can bring joy, restore self-confidence, improve mental and physical wellbeing and contribute to improving the quality of life for everyone. An ageing population and rising levels of depression and anxiety in youth are significant challenges for Long Island. Research is demonstrating ways in which music, visual arts, theatre and other creative arts can contribute to addressing these challenges.

What’s this program all about?

Students enrolled in this program will gain knowledge of innovative uses of creative arts in a range of community and health-care settings, while developing an understanding of the effects of the arts on brain and body in the social and cultural context.  There will be opportunities for students to explore their own creativity and learn about best practice for ethical and effective implementation of arts program in a variety of settings.  Students who complete this program may wish to pursue arts therapy and related majors in college.

What are some of the classes offered? Can some of our current students take some of the classes?

Yes!  Our students can absolutely explore this career path by taking elective courses in Expressive Arts in Human Development.  Some of the classes will include:

The Art of Wellness: Visual Arts; Responding to Sound: Music and Voice; The Act of Health: Drama and Performance, Health in Motion: Dance and Movement; Crafting Health: Craft and Creative Media; Inspired by Nature: Outdoor Environments; Healing Spaces: Indoor Environments; and Creative Expressions: Story Writing, Poetry and Journaling.

What inspired the creation of this program?

My background includes graduate work in social work and counseling as well a teacher training program which incorporated many art forms. I personally am very attracted to tactile engagement and have integrated many artistic exercises in my therapeutic work over the years.  Through these experiences I have found that the arts can serve as a vehicle for personal expression in a way that might feel more accessible that just talk therapy.

Often students come to LIHSA with a passion and talent for visual art, music, theater, or dance, but this track could introduce them to a career they may never have considered. We have found our students have often used their art forms to work through issues on their minds. We see this, for example, in songs our students write and pieces our students choreograph through our Works in Progress series. This new program can further students’ exploration of how the arts can heal.

What about this program most excites you?

Many of our students not only want to follow their artistic passion, but they want to connect and help with others. This is a career path that they may not have considered but might be highly rewarding work.   We are also creating connections and artistic residencies for the program.  One that we are especially excited about is a Dance for Parkinson training with the acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group.

The expressive arts viewed through a therapeutic frame is a specialized and unique field. LIHSA’s philosophy to expose students who enjoy making and engaging with art to adjacent career corners and its position as the region’s only high school program for the arts makes it a natural fit.