KT Rusch and Tia Richardson’s
Therapeutic ART with Youth of Milwaukee

The Sound and Vision Basic Proposal

KT Rusch and Tia Richardson began working together in the Fall of 2008 when Tia was invited by KT to be a guest artist during an 8–10 week workshop at an MPS Transitional Correctional High School for boys. KT’s background as a musician and songwriter (she plays percussion, electric bass, ngoni - a West African stringed instrument, and Tibetan Singing Bowls) combined with Tia’s visual art background (painting, drawing) made for a workshop that blended sound and vision. They created drumming circles and self-esteem collages themed around President Obama, and painted and restored old drums with the boys. After working together on the art, everyone drummed together. KT, Tia, and youth also read poetry chosen to inspire us to discover, create, heal and serve.

The response from staff and the boys was so overwhelmingly positive they decided it would be fun and worthwhile to create a platform for further work together in MPS and beyond. They gave their workshop the name “Sound ‘N Vision”.

Tia and KT’s goal is to expose youth to sound/drumming and visual art and to inspire youth by working with them as artists. We believe group drumming and visual art can nurture the artistic, social, and emotional development of youth. Self expression and community participation through arts are valuable experiences. We hope to demonstrate positive relationships with adults that reflect diversity. Together we learn new music and art and this creates feelings of accomplishment and enhances self-esteem.

Please contact
KT Rusch: krusch@wi.rr.com
Tia Richardson: tiachianti@yahoo.com

Some Personal Notes from 2008

We spent 10 weeks in the Fall of 2008 working with boys at an MPS Transitional Corrections High School. Our goals were to:
1. Expose them to drumming and visual art.
2. Inspire them by working with us as artists.
3. Explore ideas and approaches to art by learning something new together.
4. Teach them to jam together, that is - create improvisational music, through listening to each other and simply doing it.

We cannot photograph the youth, but here are a few results. We found that collages seem to work out better than individual art works. We think this is because cutting and pasting on a theme is a little less intimidating than drawing. Some youth are more naturally drawn to music/drumming and others to visual arts, but we discovered hidden talents when youth tried what they perceived as “something they weren’t good at”.

We started with a theme of “ENERGY”, but because of the election year, our theme morphed into “Barack Obama” through the senses. After working together on our Obama pieces, we would drum, always an incredible release of energy.


KT and Tia also read poetry written by the 13th century Persian poet Hafiz and poetry written by Tashi, a Tibetan refugee youth living in India and friend of KT. We created art related to the chakras or energy centers of the body. We asked the kids to reflect on “What do you need to survive?” (1st chakra).
Who do you feel close to and why?” (2nd chakra)
“What makes you feel powerful?” (Third chakra)
Who or what inspires you? (4th chakra) and MORE!
The initial pieces were individual works. Later we moved into group collage creations.

Teaching these guys was sometimes a bit of a challenge. For example we would be greeted occasionally by “Go Home” and other unmentionable phrases. But inside, we know these guys are soft as cotton. We love their art and music and we wish them all the best.

So guys, if you happen to read this page - know that we are waiting to be invited to your high school graduation (you can collect your Tia and KT special treat!) and we wish each of you happiness and success. And we will be back in the Spring.

Some feedback from the youth:
“We will remember them old times with Tia and KT”
“Love the drumming”
“Love the hair do’s”


In Spring 2008, we focused on Still Life painting. We set up many diverse objects - small statues, lit candles, and our famous avocado plant that traveled through the cold to be a model! We experimented with watercolors, oil pastels, watercolor pencils and permanent markers.

We arranged to have our group travel to Growing Power, Milwaukee’s famous urban agriculture facility. The youth toured the farm and then we did some watercolor painting on-site, using the environment and the tour for inspiration. We also continued with our exploration of jamming. We recorded some of our sessions, burned a CD and then played it at subsequent sessions to hear how we handle ourselves in a ‘jamming’ situation. What have we created? How did it sound? What can we do to take it to another level? These questions were discussed. All in all, we had an excellent semester - youth and guest artists working together.


Last edited by KT Rusch. Based on work by TeganDowling and Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on December 12, 2009

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