The origin of Art Therapy Outreach Center dates back to 2003 when David Wasserman (Chairman and Founder of ATOC) was looking for artwork to hang in his company’s office. Not a fan of commercial art, Mr. Wasserman placed a call to the School of Visual Arts, offering to make a donation to the school in return for some original art. Over the next few years, he got to know the President of SVA, David Rhodes, and Deborah Farber, Chair of SVA’s MPS Art Therapy Department. As he learned more about art therapy and the role it was playing in the recovery of trauma survivors, Mr. Wasserman decided to explore the possibility of creating a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing art therapy to underserved populations in New York.
In 2008, Mr. Wasserman raised funds to underwrite art therapy services for two groups, one for women veterans and one for at-risk youth. The following year a third group, for women trauma survivors, was added, and Mr. Wasserman sponsored an art exhibit, Tears Dried Solid, featuring art created by the women veterans group. The programs were supervised by Deborah Farber.
Working closely with SVA’s MPS Art Therapy Department the program model was refined, a more formal partnership with SVA was defined and, in July 2010, the Art Therapy Outreach Center received its official nonprofit designation. Since then, ATOC has brought uniquely effective, non-threatening therapeutic support at no cost to diverse populations including at-risk youth, survivors of sexual trauma, 9-11 and torture as well as veterans.
In 2012, ATOC partnered with a dozen nonprofit organizations and recorded upwards of 2,200 client contacts. More than 3,300 client hours of free art therapy were provided through these collaborations. Half of ATOC’s programs are exclusively for youth and adolescents from low-income families while the fastest growing population ATOC serves is homeless veterans.