Rita Mary Simon died on 4 May 2008. Born in 1921, she was one of the leading figures in the profession of Art Therapy in the UK and internationally. Her entry into the profession in 1942 was due to the unconventional Adlerian psychoanalyst Joshua Bierer, who was trying to find new kinds of interaction between the analyst and the person being analysed, and thought that art-production might be a good linking activity. Finding she had a talent to realize the patients’ unused skills and imagination, she was soon taking on a similar role for the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, for medical consultants and for psychiatrists of different schools. In the 1950s and again from 1969 to 1984, she lived in Northern Ireland and introduced art therapy as a constituent of the social and psychiatric services, was one of the founder members in 1986 of NIGAT (the Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy) and was also a founder member of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT).
On her return to England in the 1960s she introduced art therapy at the Cheadle Royal Astell Day Hospital, Cheshire. From 1975 to 1983 she provided regular short residential courses in art therapy through Queen’s University Belfast and through evening classes at Belfast Metropolitan College. She ran small art-therapy groups such as a children’s art group in a disturbed and violent suburb of Belfast. Between 1975 and 1995 she published two books and 18 papers. Her archive of paintings is preserved in the Wellcome Library, where it has its own webpage and catalogue record and other works are in NIGAT’s archive.
Her life is now celebrated in an illustrated colour issue of NIGAT’s newsletter. It includes photographs of Rita Simon, a biography of her by Eileen McCourt and Alice Graham, memories of her by friends and family, some of her own poems and paintings, and a vivid array of personalia.
Newsletter: In memory of Rita M. Simon, published by Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy (http://www.nigat.org/), November 2008, is available for GBP3.66 including postage from Ceri McKervill, NIGAT Treasurer, 1 Brocklamont Park, Old Galgorm Road, Ballymena, Co. Antrim., BT42 1AS (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Author: William Schupbach