Dissertation Title:

“You Woke Me Up!”: Experiences of Arts for Well-Being in Community Alongside Unhoused Women at the Downtown Women’s Center, Skid Row, Los Angeles, California, USA


Karen Silton

Date, Time & Place:

June 10, 2024 at 11:00 am


This dissertation delves into unhoused women’s experience of artmaking in community at the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC), Skid Row, Los Angeles, California, USA. Weekly mixed media workshops were held to explore the women’s experiences and any potential benefits. The study integrated mindfulness and art-based heuristic inquiry framed by nondualism which is grounded in interconnection and holism. In contrast to art therapies which tend to focus on healing inner conflicts and trauma, arts for wellbeing invite rediscovery of an individual’s sense of wholeness, wellbeing and creativity. In many cases, participants experienced joy and surprise at their ability to create beautiful, skilled artwork. As one women explained, “You woke me up!” This transformative discovery was marked by the prevalence of artwork gift-giving which reflective of new found feelings of self-worth, confidence, and trust. The DWC research results revealed how community manifested for the participants around their experiences of artmaking. Recommendations from the study include the importance of the following: to help unhoused women experience a safe and creative community space; the need to create and sustain accessible, year-round spaces that offer arts for wellbeing for this population, and, to further these beneficial effects, extend the philosophy and goals embodied by arts for well-being into institutions serving the unhoused.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology with Specialization in Community, Liberation, and Ecopsychology, p, 2016
  • Chair: Dr. Mary Watkins
  • Reader: Dr. Maureen Murdock
  • External Reader: Dr. Janis Timm-Bottos
  • Keywords: Unhoused, Well-being, Wholeness, Liberatory, Healing, Gift Economy, Community, Psychosocial Support