Date of Award

Spring April 2017

Access Restriction

Research Projects

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Marital and Family Therapy

School or College

College of Communication and Fine Arts

First Advisor

Debra Linesch


This research seeks to utilize an art experiential to explore the potential of art and art making as a means to stimulate empathy towards refugee populations. Researchers attempt to show how art can evoke empathy and inspire social action by communicating the experiences of marginalized communities, specifically Syrian refugees. This research follows a qualitative approach utilizing appropriate quantitative methodologies for data analysis. The research design includes experiential art based focus groups, implementation of guided relational viewing (Potash & Ho, 2011), surveys, response art, and verbal discussion. The data analysis observes for common themes among the three parts of the experiential, and assesses for graphic empathy (Potash & Ho, 2011) and empathic imagination (Kapitan, 2012). Our inquiry explores how participants from two groups, undergraduate studio art majors and first year art therapy graduate students, understand and relate with the experience of Syrian refugee children through art viewing and making. Researchers’ examine how these processes may act as a way to stimulate empathy and act as a catalyst for social action. After analyzing the participants’ response art and their discussions about the art viewing and making process, researchers identified four major themes distinguishing the two groups, and three major themes the groups had in common. Researchers’ examination of pre- and post-surveys on attitudes and behaviors towards refugees indicated changes that informed the conclusions of this research. Researchers conclude with a discussion of the results and how the results inform answers to the research questions and future implications.