Art equals happiness equals art

Art therapist and local artist Bob Ault sits at his work table. Art can help you find the happiness you deserve, he says.

Trista Pinick

Bob Ault, teacher, art therapist and artist, has an impressive resume. He worked at Minneger’s for 32 years, helped create the master’s program for art therapy at Emporia State University, taught at the University of Kansas, worked on the American Art Therapy Association and more. Currently he maintains his practice as an artist and gives art therapy and art lessons at Ault’s Academy of Art at 923 Fairlawn. He’s also got an awful lot of ideas.

“One of my students and I have been dropping off art in downtown Topeka and whoever finds it and wants it can take it free of charge,” he said. “We’ve already left six pieces and KEG, that’s what my student calls it, will officially be opening in May.”

The point is, he said, that art shouldn’t belong just to the rich. Art should be for anyone who wants it.

“There’s a viciousness that commercialism can bring,” said Ault.

In the same vein, he’d like to see a free art show where the public, not just professional artists could show their work.

“It needs to be legitimized,” he said. “You’d be amazed at the creativity of the average person.”

And if anyone would know, it would be him. After all, he’s spent years working with all types of people.

“Vision, pictures, are so much more primitive than language,” said Ault. “That’s why I can find so much more out by having someone draw a picture than by doing an interview.”

He demonstrated by drawing a line, then another line and another. They were all very different, signifying different types of people and moods.

“Someone can walk in and say ‘I’m not angry’ and they draw this line and press down so hard, you can see their anger by how they draw a line,” he said.

The whole time Ault talked, he drew, referencing just how much can be said in simple sketches.

In a matter of seconds, the blank paper is transformed into a grid with four quadrants. Going down the page is depression, neurosis and schizophrenia. Going up the page, the levels of happiness.

“Sometimes I see people come in who are operating normally, maybe they’re depressed or something, but then they start taking art and they become happier,” said Ault. “A lot of times they reach full potential.”

Art therapy, Ault said, can help people find meaning and happiness.

“I think that societies have really been in a crisis of meaning lately,” said Ault. “People need something.”