Photographed: Paolo Knill, with POIESIS delegates, October 2013

In 2006, a survey was conducted by Gina A. Alfonso, Studio Director of MAGIS, as part of her thesis on art therapy in Asia. This was a survey conducted specifically in South East Asia including the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, on the availability of local information on the field of EXA (programs, practitioners, literature). While it yielded information on a number of existing programs using the arts as a medium for self-expression both in therapy and education in some countries, there was a clamor in the Philippines for more information on the science behind the practice, which goes beyond self-expression, or externalizing the inner psyche. To quote a practitioner from one organization,


We do ‘art therapy’ ouido, from the gut. And while we notice the positive results, it would be good to get validation about the effectiveness of our practice, but we have limited resources/sources about the principles behind the expressive arts as a medium for healing.

More than a decade later, there seems to be an even greater interest in the field of the expressive arts in therapy, education and even business management as a science. The expressive arts is emerging as a vehicle that engages people in a holistic way, thereby creating an impact in a person’s well-being, learning and creative processes.

In her thesis, Alfonso takes pride in the creative soul of the Filipino and notes that the Philippines is the breeding ground for the most talented of artists. The opportunity to host the pioneers in the field of EXA then came at an opportune time in 2013; a time of an intense clamor for nation-building and shaping a country that reflects the truth about the Filipino soul.

Alfonso’s chapter on Art Therapy and Disaster Relief in the Philippines, in Art Therapy in Asia (a Jessica Kingsley Publication) illustrates the Filipino’s resilience and ability to rise above the most challenging of disasters. Coincidentally, a few days before MAGIS was launched through its maiden event, POEISIS, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. The workshop came at an opportune time for participants who were all deeply concerned about the devastation. The expressive arts approach offered new pathways towards recovery, rebuilding, and re-imaging a future beyond the devastation.

POEISIS was facilitated by the pioneers of the Expressive Arts and the European Graduate School in Switzerland, Paolo Knill and Margo Fuchs.

Simultaneously, MAGIS launched the Expressive Arts Network, an online community of art enthusiasts who believe in the expressive arts for healing, education, peace-building and social transformation, who share events and ideas about the arts for wellness and healing and learning.