A Florida State University Department of Art Education faculty member was recognized by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) with an Honorary Lifetime Membership, the highest honor awarded by the organization.
Dave Gussak, professor of art therapy, was recognized for accomplishments throughout his career, which has spanned over 30 years — more than 20 of those as an instructor at FSU.
“It’s so humbling, and a true honor, to receive this recognition from my colleagues,” Gussak said. “To be ranked among people who I have looked up to for so many years is truly moving and overwhelming.”
Gussak accepted the award in front of his fellow art therapists in a formal ceremony at the AATA national conference in Minneapolis.
The Honorary Lifetime Membership is given in recognition of “major contributions and broad influence” in the field of art therapy. Its recipients are considered leaders and pioneers in the field.
In addition to his work on the FSU faculty, Gussak currently serves as program coordinator for the FSU/FDC Art Therapy in Prisons program, a partnership between FSU and the Florida Department of Corrections. He has published over 50 articles and book chapters, and six books, including his most recent, “The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence.”
During his college years, Gussak worked as a professional clown. After revealing this in his address, he then spent most of it drawing a comparison between performing as a clown and the work of the art therapist.
“All of our life experiences, our struggles and challenges, contribute to our success,” he said. “I wanted to remind everyone that each one of us has a great deal to offer and that there is humor in everything we do.”
Gussak’s passion for the field and love for his work are evident. He is currently working on expanding the Art Therapy in Prisons program to two new states and advocating for legislation to establish licensing for art therapists in the state of Florida.
As he reminded everyone during his speech, “At the end of it all, ask yourself: ‘Is this what makes me happy? Is this what excites me? Have I found my circus?’ And I have.”
For more information, visit arted.fsu.edu.