Art + Science = Healing. Art Lab is Making Art Therapy Mobile

ArtLabRx Bus

Lisa Lounsbury – an AGS alumna, Art Therapy faculty member, and inspiring entrepreneur – is making big waves in the Art Therapy industry through a refreshing take on social interest in action. As Lisa embarks on her journey, our Adler team reached out to hear about how her experiences at Adler Graduate School (AGS) and beyond have helped encourage her to aspire to new heights.

Alder: You came to AGS later in your career, correct?

Lisa: Yes. I consider myself a late-bloomer. But, when I blossom, I blossom big. I lost my corporate job in my mid-forties and looked to my faith to guide me. Most of my adult life was self-employment in the arts; so, I began self-identity workshops in treatment centers. When the women who participated expressed profound emotional connections to the project, I realized that I needed theory to support this impactful work. Thus, I began my educational journey.

Adler: You went back to school and tailored your degree to the needs of AGS’ Art Therapy program?

Lisa: Yes. In the fall of 2008, I began an Associate Arts Degree at MCTC in Minneapolis. Before graduation, I found AGS’ newly accredited Art Therapy program. After communicating with Craig Balfany about the requirements for acceptance, I designed an Individualized Bachelor of Arts Degree at Metro State that incorporated classes in psychology, fine art, theatre, and world religions.

Adler: Have you always been interested in art?

Lisa: I have been creatively expressing myself since I can remember. My projects included a moss pillow stuffed with dried leaves and wrapped with grapevine, hand-sewn puppets complete with a curtained puppet stage, carved wood sculptures, paintings, and drawings.

Adler: Tell us about your volunteer work, and your travels during your career pursuits.

Lisa: When I was sixteen, I was an exchange student in Guatemala for six months. I learned to speak Spanish and to love the Latino population. In my early twenties, I volunteered as a Big Sister for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities and had my little sister for two years. In my thirties, our church went on a mission’s trip to Ecuador. I oversaw teaching our team to create and perform with large-scale back-pack style puppetry and shadow puppets. We taught parables of the Bible and taught the “maestros” how to create both types of puppets. By the end of our trip, the show was performed in its entirety by the Ecuadorian community. In 2001, I acted as a delegation host for the Guatemalan team during the International Special Olympics Games that were held here in Minnesota. After my first year at Adler, I went to Nicaragua for a three-week Social Action and Community Outreach Art Therapy internship through a partnership Adler had with Mount Mary College in Wisconsin. We focused on building community connections and telling their story through art. Instead of one summer session at AGS, I attended ICASSI, a two-week Adlerian Psychology summer school. That year, it was held in the Netherlands. I spent an additional week traveling with a local friend. Directly after graduating from AGS, I spent a month traveling Japan and visiting a friend I had met at ICASSI.

Adler: What is your advice to students who may be pursuing a career change or college later in life?

Lisa: Stick with it; it’s worth it! Going back to school was difficult as a newly divorced, single mom whose car just died. We were able to commute with the city bus system. I reached out to friends and neighbors for rides when the bus did not suffice. I found that I was able to focus better as an adult in school because I knew what I wanted, and I had the discipline from working for so many years. I looked at school as my new full-time job. From March 2008 – March 2014, I was a full-time student including summer school each year. The continuous enrollment kept me on track to reach my goal.

Adler: Now, your goal is converting a Coach bus to become a mobile Art Therapy studio. Tell us more about this endeavor.

Lisa: During one of my AGS courses, I wrote about creating a Healing Arts Center. As I was praying about a specific building that I thought would have been perfect, I stopped and asked, “What if I’m wrong?” Shortly after, I heard a still, small voice say, “Put it on a bus.” Instantly, it gave me chills as I thought of the possibilities of a mobile mental health facility. We could reach people in communities who have little or no mental health professionals and where transportation is an obstacle.

Adler: Was financing the bus unsettling?

Lisa: No. I didn’t have to finance it. God has blessed my business, Art Lab Rx, because it has been growing exponentially since its inception in 2015. We are facilitating group sessions in treatment centers four days a week with four groups each day. At the end of 2016, I became a firm by hiring two Independent Contractors: one AGS student who interned with me at Nu Way, and a peer who was in classes with me at AGS. Prior to my business growth, I took a Guided Business Plan course with Women Venture. They helped me develop a business plan with financial goals. Now that I show solid growth and the bus as collateral, I’m praying the bank will say yes to financing the bus retrofit. If not, we’ll find another way.

Adler: So, tell us about the bus.Exterior of Bus

Lisa: After spending time researching which type of bus would fit our needs, I purchased an MCI 45’ Coach bus with an accessible lift. The frame of this bus has not changed since the seventies which means future units will have a consistent look. I named the bus Maggie after Margaret Naumburg, the pioneering “mother” of art therapy in the US. Future busses will be named after other famous art therapists. Maggie has an accessible lift for wheelchair accessibility, the toilet will be expanded to become ADA compliant, and the eight individualized art stations will also be accessible. She will have a storage space with a counter and sink for clean-up, her own HVAC system, a generator, propane tank, fresh water tank, and holding tank for grey water. The old patterned carpet will be removed from the walls and ceiling. The interior will have a new clean, bright look with plenty of overhead lights. The outside bus wrap will look like a large piece of watercolor paper that has been colored with various art materials. We will have a video of the art-making process to create that design.

Adler: What are your plans in the future with the mobile art bus?Bus Inside photos

Lisa: God willing, the renovations will be completed by the end of September, just in time for the Minnesota Adlerian Conference. We will be launching a marketing campaign using social media to attract interest, and I will continue to network with past and future connections such as the Spanish Speaking Mental Health Professional Consortium; CLUES: Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio — a linguistically and culturally relevant resource and nonprofit service organization; as well as others I have met through MARRCH: Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health. As a mobile unit, we can reach remote locations, we can serve areas where transportation is a problem, the stations can be moved outside, it’s completely self-contained, and Art Lab Rx is inclusive and available to all people. Having a facility that is completely ADA compliant will expand our audience and increase our offerings exponentially. Possibilities for group work on the bus is endless. We plan to contract with entities for weekly consistent care, periodic wellness workshops and day-long retreats in nature when weather permits, and for programming to support faith-based groups. Also, I am hoping it will work to be parked at a site in both Minneapolis and St. Paul to provide on-going weekly art therapy support for individuals on a journey of long-term recovery – Art Lab is social interest in action.

Adler: Anything else you would like our readers to know?

Lisa: Dreams and visions CAN become realities. Trust, believe, and keep moving forward. It’s never too late.


At Adler Graduate School, we love hearing about the success and journey our graduates have undertaken to further their profession. To learn more about how Adler can inspire you, click here.