Belonging: Art therapy by and for People of Colour


Marbella Carlos is an artist and MA student in Art Therapy in Concordia University’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies. She holds a BFA in Studio Art (With Distinction) from the University of Calgary and a BEd in Visual Arts Education from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Prior to Concordia, she worked for four years with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) where she began as a volunteer and completed her tenure as the head of their outreach and education program. She is an unapologetic intersectional feminist who works within an anti-oppressive, social justice-focused framework.

Impact of Project : 

Despite the growing racial diversity in Canada and the presence of multiculturalism in cities like Montreal, there is a lack of representation of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) community in the arts and in mental health at all levels. Marbella held 5 group sessions at the Concordia University Art Hive (CUAH) for 8 self-identifying BIPOC participants to connect and create artwork while exploring themes of identity, family, belonging, discrimination, and racism in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental space. In this BIPOC specific space, previously silenced narratives spoke volumes.

As a facilitator, Marbella gained invaluable insight about how to be an effective, social-justice focused art therapist. She engaged in this process by holding space for the participants to explore their experiences and self-expression through experimenting with the CUAH’s different donated materials in an open-studio format. Within the creativity of the space, participants felt free to dive right into artmaking even if they did not identify as artistic!

One challenge was holding a closed group within the open format of the CUAH in the EV building. Sometimes people would walk into the space during the group to sit at the tables to study or were confused and thought we were open for regular hive hours. Another challenge was having to explain to a few people why a BIPOC-only space is not meant to alienate others, but rather to gather people with common experiences and create a safe space for their healing. Marbella plans to continue to grow this project and provide more spaces for members of the BIPOC community of Montreal to have meaningful access the Creative Arts Therapies. This project demonstrated the need for mental health services for BIPOC individuals, as evidenced by a waitlist of 20 people.

For more information please contact Marbella at

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