Tsakiraki, working as a museum art therapist, believes that all works of art, regardless of the artist, the genre or the style of the artwork, can have a therapeutic effect

Stefania Tsakiraki

The revelation of the self through works of art and books

Text: Dimitra Kehagia || Photos: ©Stefania Tsakiraki_www.whatiseeinart.com
Stefania Tsakiraki

She is currently living in Paris, working as a museum art therapist and a book therapist, specialties that sprang out from a long and “spiral”, as she describes it, academic and professional course. Stefania Tsakiraki started out her journey in the pedagogical field and later enrolled in a drama school, before crossing paths with yoga and meditation. This blend of references, along with her love for art and books, led her to these unconventional branches of therapy.

She spends her time in libraries and museums, seeking books that could lead people to introspection and eventually to some kind of therapy, while focusing her attention on topics and issues reflecting an “inner art” that connects the human soul to a work of art.  As she looks back into the past, Stefania Tsakiraki can recall striving – even through her initial studies on Pedagogy – to gain a better understanding of human nature, herself and her position in the world. At the same time, she sought a professional getaway that could shelter her love for arts, books and human existence. All these needs, thoughts and desires began taking a more coherent and combinatorial form about four years ago, when she decided to move to Paris and attend Art Therapy studies.

Museum Art Therapy

“Paris served as a source of new inspiration. Up until then, my definition of art therapy was identified with what we refer to in Greek as “visual art therapy”, a process in which the healed is guided towards art creation using the materials offered by the healer. However, as soon as I set foot in Paris, I began spending a lot of time in museums. As a result, I started to develop a personal look at art. Instead of observing the works of art and studying their techniques, I gradually found myself engaged in an inner dialogue. I addressed questions to the work of art that stood before my eyes, such as “why am I drawn to this particular work?”. The answers coming from deep within me, urged me to discover new aspects of myself. So, I realized that each work of art that captivates us can function as a revelatory mirror”, she explains.

Nowadays, working as museum art therapist, she believes that all works of art, regardless of the artist, the genre or the style of the artwork, can have a therapeutic effect. “They are the eyes of our heart, which can turn art into a therapy.” In the therapies she performs either in person, within the museum premises, or online, the healer is the one to select the artwork that will serve as the bedrock of the process. Stefania’s role is to facilitate the appropriate circumstances for each person to come in contact with himself/herself, through the work of art of his/her choice, triggering a personal dialogue with art. In the course of the therapy, the name of the artist and the title of the work are of no importance. “The therapy process does not relate to the history of art, but to the feelings, the projections and the thoughts generated by the work of art,” she mentions.

My art of being me

Stefania’s experiences as a museum visitor were the basis for her book My Art of Being Me, scheduled to be published within 2022. The book unfolds an “inner journey”, to quote her own words, of 11,881 kilometers in seven countries (Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, France, Greece) and twenty-one European museums.

In her book, through photos she has taken over the years, Stefania focuses on the bond between visitors and artworks. The photos are accompanied by two texts, “a letter addressed to all the mothers of our world,”, written by her as if she was an adult child, as well as a text with information on the book’s journey and art’s role on her personal therapeutic path.

In the very core of the book, we encounter love, acceptance and taking over responsibility for one’s actions. “When I experienced acceptance for the first time, both towards myself and my mother, I decided to praise love and search for it in the place least expected to be found: museums,” she confesses. In addition, she stresses out that the very act of sharing moments of love consists a substantial part of her work. One such moment was the frame of a mother and her daughter, in the Acropolis Museum, embracing each other in front of a sculpture that portrays two figures in a similar body position.

Book therapy

Stefania’s second specialty attracts an even bigger audience, as book lovers form a larger target group than art lovers. “It is a revelation for someone to learn how to delve into a book and experience the opening of a new channel of inner communication, through a targeted process of reading. Suddenly, a form of entertainment is transformed into a life companion”.

As a book therapist, the bibliography she recommends depends on the goals set and the issues tackled by each session. “I have to come up with the proper filter so that the books could render service to the therapeutic process,” she points out. As she explains, her relation with books had always been intuitive. “I have books in my bookcase that can be on hold for years. However, I know that once the right time comes for us to meet, they will “summon” me.”

Stefania goes on to say that she has accomplished the professional goals she had set through museum therapy, book therapy and the book she wrote, but wouldn’t say no to the prospect of writing more books. “Maybe, some time, another book might come along, for instance, the response of the mother to her child’s letter.” She holds tight to the openness taught by her family and her mother’s prompting to “chase her dreams.”

Those who subscribe to her newsletter will have the chance to take part in the Slow Art meetings (taking the time to thoroughly observe a work of art), held on a monthly basis, free of charge, and exclusively for the friends and supporters of whatiseeinart, who are jointly discovering each month the personal glance at art.