Student Blog Entry: The Ethics of Matchbox Art

“The Ethics of Matchbox Art”

By James Huffman

As part of our preparation for our work in Cambodia we have been exploring ethical issues related to the field of art therapy. Our beacon through this, sometimes cloudy area, has been Bruce Moon’s (2006) work, Ethical Issues in Art Therapy, which does an excellent job highlighting various perspectives and providing scenarios for consideration. As prepared as we may feel, however, for whatever ethical dilemmas we may encounter, there will always be situations which fall outside our textbooks and where we will have to exercise our best judgment.

One such situation occurred several weeks ago at a youth matchbox art making party at Sterling Drive Studios. It was the end of the night and we had just begun the tedious work of deciding which scraps of paper and fabric were large enough to keep and which to throw away, whether it is worth it to fish those 7 beads out of the dustpan or should we toss the whole mess… We had given the artists the option of either donating their matchboxes at the end of the night or keeping them and had received several donations. In the chaos of cleanup, some of the donated matchboxes were placed on the same table as scraps and other materials to be sorted. One piece of matchbox art was particularly confusing – several crumpled pieces of paper drizzled in hot glue with matchsticks stuck seemingly at random throughout it. Initially thinking this to be trash, I threw it in the garbage with the other used and discarded materials. When later I saw it back on the table, I was told it was a donated matchbox with a $1,000 price tag (artists are allowed to suggest a minimum bid for their work).

After cleanup we began packing the donated matchboxes for travel and faced the decision of what to do with the cup. In all likelihood, the extravagant pricetag was a joke and the $1,000 minimum bid would not be met. We would then have to make arrangements after the Gala to return the matchbox to the artist, creating more work for ourselves. So do we keep it?

I believe the answer is yes. As art therapists it is important to define the playing field and stick to the boundaries we set, especially in work with youth and adolescents where conflicts over boundaries are more likely to occur (Santrock, 2010). Boundaries can be reassessed as we go, but they should not be applied retroactively. In this instance we had not provided any boundaries around what the matchbox art should look like or what the minimum bids should be. There is also the possibility that the artist is an aspiring trash sculptor – the likes of HA Schult – and honestly believes their work is worth $1,000. We can’t really know. All we know for certain is that the artist created a unique piece of art, then took the time to fill out a donation form and it is up to us to honor that donation.

Santrock, J. (2010). Lifespan Development. New York: McGraw-Hill

*details have been changed to protect the identity of the artist

A few pictures from Anjali House

Sue Wallingford and Tracey Kayne tell the story of the Angry Monster with the help of an Anjali teacher

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – The way of Lao-tzu

The NCAS-I leaves for Cambodia today!  You can follow us here on our blog or on Facebook, Twitter @NCASI, or Pinterest.  We will try to post something everyday.  Thank you for your loving support and please hold us dear to your hearts as we embark on this amazing journey!

With extreme gratitude,

The Naropa Community Art Studio International

Art Activities in Cambodia…Donations Welcome!

Are you curious about the art activities we have planned for our trip to Cambodia in a few weeks?  Check out our ideas below!  We will be using them with the girls at Transitions and a local orphanage:

Medicine Bags, Handmade Journals, Felted Animals, Pendant Charms with Beads, Worry Dolls, T-Shirts, Basket Weavings, Shadow Puppets and Theaters, Self Care Pouches

What do you think about this “Wee Mouse Tin House” idea from mmmcrafts for the felted animals and worry dolls?  Cozy little beds made from Altoids cans!

We want the girls at Transitions and the local orphanage to be able to continue making art after we leave, so we will be putting together art bags with various supplies for some of the activities above.  The NCAS-I welcomes any of the following donations:

9 X 12 Pad of good quality paper, Boxes of oil pastels and chalk pastels, Watercolor sets, Colored pencils, Markers, Paintbrushes (various sizes), Good cutting scissors, Fabric glue, Glue sticks, Small bottles of white school glue, Decorative items (ribbon, yarn, sequins, beads, feathers, glitter, fabric scraps), Sewing needles and thread, Wool for needle felting, Felting needles, T-Shirts (size small), Bendable wire for making armature, Pretty paper and collage images, Black construction paper, Large popsicle sticks, Mat board (for journal covers), Book binding needles, Essential oils and herbs.

Phew!  If you’re interested in making a donation, send us a message on the blog or on Facebook…and tell your friends!
***Image from

NEW BOOK! – Art Therapy in Asia: To the Bone or Wrapped in Silk

We are so excited to get our hands on this book once it publishes this month!  It couldn’t be more perfect for the work NCAS-I will be doing in Cambodia with Transitions this year and the years to come!

Take a look inside here if you’re curious about the book!  Authors have dedicated two full chapters to Cambodia and trafficking in Southeast Asia!

(Image from

A Look at Contemporary Artists in Cambodia

In hopes of offering sustainable art practices for participants and staff at Transitions, as well as for those working in the community, one of our intentions for the upcoming trip to Cambodia is to research contemporary arts and culture.  For now, we’re doing our research from home, searching the internet for inspiration…

An excerpt from a 2009 CNN article Cambodian art: Past to present describes the artistic community in Cambodia:

Cambodia, which lost an estimated one-quarter of its population or at least 1.7 million people — including an estimated 90 percent of its artists — under the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, has a small but growing artistic community: there are some 50 practicing artists out of its 14 million people, according to Phnom Penh-based curator Erin Gleeson.

Here’s a look at the artwork of a few of Cambodia’s contemporary artists:

Sopheap Pich
"Cycle 2, Version 3," 2008, Rattan and Wire, from

Leang Seckon
"Cambodian Faces," 2010, Mixed Media on Canvas, from

Chan Dany
"Kbach Phni Vois," Pencil Shavings on Wood, from

Duong Saree
"Untitled," 2005, Oil on Canvas, from

A more recent article, Cambodia’s art revolution reaches global market, includes even more artists!

Photographs from the Small Resources=Big Possibilities Gala!

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photographs by Erin Shannon, Jessica Sabo, and Meg Hamilton

Whew! What a Night!

Last night was a huge success for NCAS-I! The Small Resources=Big Possibilities Art Auction Gala was phenomenal. We are so honored and excited to have the support of so many incredible individuals. Thank you!

We’ll tell you more about it soon- after we get some rest! For now, enjoy the preview of photos from the night!

Steph Andres promoting the event with chalk art on Pearl Street

Checking out the matchboxes...

We had over 100 pieces!

A completed Dream Flag that will be taken to Cambodia with the NCAS-I team in May

The Dream Flag station

so fun!

The first year art therapy student volunteers rocked registration!

well... enough said.

NCAS-I team member Katie Markley displaying live auction pieces

NCAS-I team member Meg Hamilton displaying live auction pieces

Making a bid in the live auction

NCAS-I faculty mentor Sue Wallingford and her daughter Emma

Sue Wallingford and National Director for Education and Advocacy for Transitions Pam Harvey

Today’s the Day- Final Matchbox Preview and We’ll See You Tonight!

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The Small Resources=Big Possibilities Art Auction Gala is finally here! Here is the final preview of matchbox art that will be auctioned at the event tonight. We still have more pieces coming in today so be ready for some pretty incredible surprises.

Ticket sales will be available online until 6:30 PM tonight. After this tickets can only be purchased at the door. If you don’t want to wait in line get your tickets today!

We’ll see you tonight!

Matchbox art from Mimi Farrelly-Hansen, Merryl Rothaus,and More!

"Trafficking Innocence" by Mimi Farrelly-Hansen

"Talisman" by Merryl Rothaus

by Laura Marshall
by Tom Cannon
by J. Lyndon