Meet Cat Thomas a 2016 graduate of our Certificate Training Program.
We are excited to feature her as our monthly Alumni Spotlight!
We think you will be inspired by the blend of skills and practices Cat brings to her work as an artist, expressive arts facilitator and small business coach & consultant!
Cat Thomas, MAT, is an artist, expressive arts facilitator, and small business coach & consultant with an interest in helping small business owners with business start up
and management. From helping people discover what they are passionate about to getting their first sale or getting a website up & running, Cat thrives in helping others succeed. By using guided meditation, expressive arts and step by step processes she helps guide clients along the many stages of entrepreneurship so they can serve more people, make more money & live a life they desire.
Cat, what drew you to the field of Expressive Arts, or motivated you to get Expressive Arts training?
I was initially
drawn to the field after doing some internet searching. I was teaching elementary school at the time and was already incorporating expressive arts into my classroom without even realizing what it was. I was teaching 3rd grade and had a "Peace Place" setup in my room for my students to retreat to whenever they were feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry etc. There were pillows, blankets & stuffed animals, but also crayons, markers, paper, pencils etc. They were allowed to go whenever they wanted,
but knew not to spend too much time there. Just enough to feel better and be back on track. I knew this was beneficial and also realized I cared more about the emotional wellbeing of my students maybe moreso than their academic success. I also had been using the arts to process a lot that was going on in my personal life, and realized there was a strong correlation between the arts & processing feelings. I did some searching on the web and found the EAFI. I was over teaching and it was close
to the beach. I took one class and was hooked. So I quit my job and moved to St. Pete. I got a nanny job and kind of immersed myself in the field and in creating my own artwork.
As you began to immerse yourself in this work, were there any unexpected gifts or surprises?
A ton. I honestly didn't really know what to expect, but my first course was "Dive
in to Expressive Arts" and it was very powerful for me. There is a lot of truth in the mind-body-spirit connection and the ability for the arts to transcend words. I was able to process a lot that was going on in my personal life without even setting a specific intention to do that.
For me, there is a strong connection with movement, and I hadn't really thought about the fact that we really only move our bodies in the same way every day; sitting, walking, sleeping etc. I found out about the 5Rhythms movement practice and have fallen in love with it. I truly believe energy gets stuck in the body and it's our job to move it around and out. I learned somewhere along the way that our emotional bodies are kind of like our physical bodies in that we take in all of this emotional input throughout the day, just as we take in food, and we need to
"digest" all of what has come in and process everything; holding on to what we need, like the nutrients in food, and letting go of what we don't need. That has been a big gift for me. Processing and letting go of things that no longer serve me.
I also found that I am very drawn
to mandalas as an art form and art practice. While I haven't made any in a while, I got very into them at one point and they were all that I was making. During the height of my mandala making obsession I responded to a call to artists for a street mural in Seminole Heights and ended up winning the design contest. It was a community art project & I had zero experience with murals. But we did it and it has been one of my favorite projects to date! Who knew I would go to Florida, start making
art, and end up painting a mural? Definitely a surprise there.
South Seminole Heights Street Mural
Working with residents to
paint the street mural
How are you currently implementing expressive arts in your
personal and/or professional life?
In my personal life I use expressive arts in some form pretty much on a daily basis, but
have nothing set in stone. I kind of go with what I'm feeing in the moment. Sometimes I'll move then write or write then move. Other times I'll meditate, then draw then write or move then draw then write. It truly just depends on how I'm feeing when I wake up in the morning, which is usually when I do my practice. I really like Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way." In it she talks about doing morning pages, where you wake up and just start free writing when you'll still in the liminal space between sleeping and waking. I find that space to be really magical.
In my professional life I'm starting to weave some things together, and create a business that is a culmination of all of the skills and learning I have taken a liking to so far. I just left my job at Moffitt Cancer Center after working there for 8 years as an Artist in Residence in the Arts in Medicine Program. I learned a lot about myself, and how to hold space for others, and had some of the most incredible coworkers a job could offer but felt it was time to move on. While
working there, I also started my own business, Rise & Align, and have held a vision for it for quite some time. I started off selling my artwork, and now sell clothing with my designs on
them as well. I have held expressive arts workshops & classes both online & in person and am now starting to weave in business coaching, consulting and management. I have several clients already (including EAFI) and I couldn't be more grateful and excited about where things are headed.
Created during my mandala phase
What are your goals in this work, or how do you envision your involvement with EXA unfolding in the future?
My goals in this work are to start weaving expressive arts in with business coaching & consulting. I want to help passionate, heart-centered small business owners feel less overwhelmed and more excited about starting and managing their businesses.
Through the use of expressive arts, I want to help people get really clear about what they are offering, who their offers are for, and how to reach those people. I also want to provide services in terms of website creation & management, email marketing, social media marketing, running ads etc. Sometimes things within the tech world can be stressful and have a steep learning curve, so I want to
help both teach people how to do those things or take them off their plate and do it for them. It's taken me years to learn how to do all of these things and I know not everyone has the time to learn everything. If there's anything I've learned in the business world it's that time is the one resource that is finite. Once it's gone it's gone. If you can afford to pay someone to do something for you or help you figure something out you need to do it so that you can focus on how you best serve
I'm also planning on partnering with some other people in the expressive arts field to offer some fun and educational workshops, classes and hopefully retreats.
Reawakening Your Creative Self: Yoga + Mandalas
2019 @ The Body Electric, St. Petersburg, FL
How has Expressive Arts enriched or expanded your career path?
Expressive arts has enriched my career path in so many ways. Prior to taking the Certificate Training Program I wasn't sure what direction I was going to be heading in. I just knew that teaching elementary school was not it! Expressive arts has helped me follow my own thread, and weave my own tapestry of skills together. I
continue forging my own path, learning more about myself, my abilities, what I like & what I don't like and what I can do to serve others in a way that feels good.
Be Here Now
Created during the height of COVID when there was an immense amount of uncertainty in the
What is your current personal practice and how does it enrich your life?
I think I touched on this earlier, but I try to do something every day. I do not always follow the same sequence and I also don't do my practice at the same time every day. It just
depends on the day. My practice is my compass. It helps guide me in the right direction.
I also try to take workshops every now and then depending on how I'm feeling. I took a workshop by Amy Maricle at one point and got very in to making tiny whimsical landscape art. I didn't plan them. I just did what felt right. I also took an "Expressive Tarot" workshop recently by Sunny Stewart (another graduate of the program) and a friend of hers and it was fabulous. I'm big into astrology and what I received from the workshop was really profound for me.
I also attended a retreat at Miriam Zimm's (another program graduate) house recently that a lot of students/graduates from the program participated in and got a lot out of that as well. I love participating in workshops, seeing what others are doing & giving myself the gift of not always having to hold space for myself, by myself. It's nice for someone else to do that once in a while.
Tiny Whimsical Landscapes (2x2 inches)
I love this process.
Watching the background melt into the paper & then creating mini ethereal scenes on top.
What do you wish you could tell the world about Expressive Arts?
I wish I could tell the world that you don't have to be a
professional artist to engage in the arts. You don't have to be able to draw a straight line. You don't have to show anything you make to anyone else. The process is for you. It's for your own personal benefit. You are allowed to create just for the sake of creating. You are allowed to move your body in ways you feel it wants to be moved. I want people to be able to feel the freedom associated with expressive arts. In the moment of moving, writing, creating etc. there is nothing else going on.
It's just you interacting with yourself & the media. If you can set your judgment aside and see things from another perspective you can see that you're truly giving yourself the gift of freedom. There's nothing to be afraid of.
In the Flow
Moving the energy around is what it's all about.
What are you currently offering, and what are the ways that people can work with
Right now I am selling clothes in my ETSY shop & also offering the following small business management services.
- website creation & management (WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace)
- email marketing (Aweber, MailChimp)
media marketing (Instagram & Facebook)
I am also working on creating a few courses incorporating expressive arts & business. If anyone wants to partner to offer something, send me a message!
I am so
grateful to EAFI and the Certificate Training Program! It was life changing for me. I also want to give a little shout out in memory of Victoria, as she was an amazing mentor to me and will always hold a special place in my heart ❤️
Watch for our Alumni Spotlight on the 1st of each month. We feature graduates of our Certificate Training Program - Expressive Arts Facilitators, Therapists, and Educators. We hope this series
will inspire you, help spread the work of our alumni, and demonstrate the scope of practice of the expressive arts field.
For more information about our Certificate Training Program, Professional Development, and Workshops - both online and
in-person, visit us at www.expressiveartsflorida.com
Tamara Teeter Knapp
MA, NCC, MHC Intern, REACE®
MA, LMHC(S), REACE®, REAT®