Second Lady Karen Pence visited Florida State University (FSU) on Wednesday to unveil her new art therapy initiative. Despite the charitable (and non-political) nature of the event, students protested outside of the announcement.
The event, titled “Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART” took place at FSU because the university has led the way in the field of art therapy since 1987. It is one of five programs in the country to offer a doctoral program in the field.
Some students, however, could not see past the political views of her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, and protested outside.
“Mike Pence Hates Gays,” read one sign written in rainbow colors.
Students also wrote phrases such as “Better art therapy than conversion therapy” on the sidewalks of campus.
Other students showed up outside the event to support Mrs. Pence and the Trump administration.
“We heard about this counter-protest over here,” said Joseph Wolski, an FSU student siding with Pence’s supporters. “We just wanted to make sure she knew that that was not representative of the entire Florida State community and that she had support here.”
Nicholas Bique, Vice Chair of the FSU College Republicans, said it was an honor to have Pence on campus.
“It’s a huge honor that the second lady is on our campus, and supporting our arts therapy program. I think it’s a huge step for this administration to support art education and in supporting this university,” Bique said.
“Out of all the colleges that do a phenomenal job she felt that FSU was exceptional, so we’re here to represent the students that feel that the Trump and Pence administration represents them,” he continued.
“I chose only one initiative to champion, and it is art therapy, which is near and dear to my heart,” said Mrs. Pence. “It is evident when I visit art therapy programs across the United States and world, that art therapy is making a positive difference.”
Mrs. Pence is a former elementary school teacher who holds a master’s degree in art education. She has been involved with art therapy since 2006 after observing a session at Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program for children with cancer in Washington, D.C.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”