Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy

Academic Discipline

Community Psychology

First Advisor

Bradley Olson

Second Advisor

Tiffeny Jimenez

Third Advisor

Judah Viola



This community/arts based participatory research project encompassed communal art making practices (art as therapy) to build community, heal and resist systemic oppression and community violence; as well as promote self-care, empowerment, and a sense of purpose. Participants engaged in community-based art therapy to build and heal communities impacted by gun violence; using an ecological model. This "Doll Project" developed as a grassroots approach to arts-based social change, an ongoing cycle of creation, reflection and action with the hope to create a wave of healing and understanding through impacted Chicago communities. This process was intended to engage communities and embody the use of creativity to shift power and flatten hierarchies, largely by building up leadership of those most impacted by violence. The art of doll making was used to memorialize victims of gun violence in the city in record high years of murders, while simultaneously creating a memorial of resistance, initiating community-based adaptive change practices for social equity, connection, and liberation. This project challenges the social norms of gun violence and examines the structures, policies and systems of oppression, racism, economic and cultural neglect that have created the tensions and violence caused within these largely isolated marginalized urban communities.


"Art is our one true global language. It knows no nation, it favors no race, and it acknowledges no class. It speaks to our need to reveal, heal, and transform. It transcends our ordinary lives and lets us imagine what is possible."

Richard Kamler