Bifano, Susanne & Gonzalez, Susan Natacha

Boxed Identity: Reflections on permanence and change in tradition


Susanne Bifano & Susan Natacha Gonzalez


In 2015 the writers, arts therapists based in the U.S., were contacted by teaching artists in Khartoum, Sudan, to provide instruction on how to engage children with disabilities in art experiences. In response to this request the art therapists designed a distance learning program, using Skype, to address the needs of the population. Presenters will briefly discuss how three different seasoned art therapists approached the project and how they related to the teaching artists, along with providing three different responses to a dramatic shift in art and in the behavior of one of the Sudanese participants.

The workshop will ask questions of how traditions and culture can influence the collaborations in relaying the use of art with individuals with disabilities. How does a creative arts therapist provide clear and effective responses that are sustainable across cultures?

This workshop will invite participants to think about traditions and transitions as they create an environment using a container and inserting a magnifying lens to one side of the box. The magnifying lens changes the interior space created, symbolizing the countertransference that can distort the therapist’s overall impression of the client.

Attendees will respond to parts of their inner environment that are unaffected and parts that are altered by the lens. The presenters will explore, through an art exchange, ways in which their traditions transform, the impact on the different facets of their lives, i.e. social, professional and familial, and how they might respond to a community need utilizing technology and media as a platform to work with others with profound cultural differences.



Susanne Marie Bifano is a visual artist, board certified and licensed art therapist and professor of art therapy. Susanne has co-presented nationally and internationally on the topics of mental health and urban poverty, the fusion of art and writing in the hospital for pediatric patients with chronic illnesses and wellness strategies for healthcare workers. Currently she provides art therapy services in the pediatric in-patient and out-patient setting at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.


Susan Natacha Gonzalez has been an art therapist for 20 years in a variety of settings. Susan has presented the topic of art, special education, art therapy and urban poverty in a variety of conferences, on the radio and has responded to interviews for several publications nationally and abroad. As an artist, Susan Natacha deems the practice of art as an opportunity for the development, understanding and fostering of relationships with others in accordance to a specific space at any given time.


Recent Publications

Bifano, S. & Gonzalez, S. (2014). Using art to bridge gaps between the service provider and the urban poor client. Intercultural Horizons Vol. III - Intercultural Competence: Key to the New Multicultural Societies of the Globalized World. Cambridge Scholars Press, UK.

Presentations (co-facilitated)

2015 Using the Arts to Bridge Gaps Between the Service Provider/ Art Therapist and the Urban Poor Client for the European Consortium for Arts Therapies Education conference, Palermo, Sicily.

2015 When Art Communicates Abilities: New York to Sudan.  Using the process of art-making by students with disabilities as a tool (guide) for planning for the Arts in Society’s The Work of Art in the Age of Networked Society Conference. Imperial College of London, London, UK.

2013 Shadows in the City: The use of expressive arts to bridge the gap between support service providers and the poor client in the urban setting for The International Center for Intercultural Exchange Conference, Siena, Italy.

2012 Profiling Poor Children and Families: Urban Poverty and Its Impact on the Provision of Support Services at the Innovative Practices in Mental Health Conference at College of New Rochelle, NY.