Volume XIX | Issue 2 | Fall 2019
Margaret Hartsook in her studio

Scholar finds fulfillment through art

Ford Opportunity Scholar Margaret Hartsook earns Bruce Award

When Margaret Hartsook was a young student, she didn’t learn in the same way as other kids. Recognizing her unique learning style, teachers often encouraged her to incorporate art into her lessons.

“Art has always been a place where I process things and sort things out,” Hartsook says. “It helped me make sense of the world as a young person.” When she received the Ford Opportunity Scholarship in 2001, she knew exactly what she wanted to study — art therapy.  Today, Hartsook shares her love of art while working as a clinical art therapist for Legacy Good Samaritan Cancer Healing Center in Portland and as an art program consultant for Memories in the Making, an Alzheimer’s Association program.

In her mid-40s, she won a Ford Opportunity scholarship for single parents 

Hartsook recently received the Gerald E. Bruce Award, established to recognize Ford Family scholarship alumni who have unselfishly worked to better their communities. “The combination of Margaret’s direct volunteer service and her ability to build off that service to create programs that were replicated in other regions of the state impressed the selection committee,” says Bonnie Williams, manager of scholar and alumni engagement at The Ford Family Foundation.

Although she’s always loved all art forms, Hartsook took an indirect route to being an art therapist. Fresh out of high school in 1974, she enrolled in California College of Art, but left school to raise a family.  In her mid-40s, she won a Ford Opportunity scholarship for single parents after deciding she wanted more out of life than working in retail. 

“I had already thought about doing art therapy — I am creative and I had this art background — but I hadn’t done it for quite a number of years,” Hartsook says. “Then, I got the scholarship, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2003 from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree in 2006 from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in transpersonal counseling, psychology and art therapy.

Hartsook worked as a hospice bereavement counselor and co-created a hospice art therapy program. She was also an adjunct faculty member for Naropa in addition to volunteering in an art therapy studio and at a therapeutic horse riding center. She also volunteered with Memories in the Making, an art-based program for people with dementia.

“While my work at hospice was rewarding, after six years, I made the difficult decision to leave as I was being called to return to my family in Oregon,” Hartsook says.

In 2011, she settled in Portland near her two grown children, who had started families of their own. 

She began a volunteer Memories in Making pilot program with the Alzheimer’s Association in Portland. After a few months, the association hired her to grow the program statewide, and it is now in more than 150 Alzheimer’s care facilities in Oregon. 

During this work, she also worked with people dealing with grief and serious illnesses. She had talked with the Legacy Health system about doing art therapy with their cancer patients, which led to a full-time position in 2012.

Hartsook has chosen Forward Stride, a therapeutic horse riding center in Hillsboro, to receive the $5,000 grant that accompanies the Gerald E. Bruce Award. She volunteers with Forward Stride, which enhances the quality of life for people with special needs through horse-centered activities and therapies.

“What I value most in my work is the ability to make a difference in the lives of people who are struggling by using creativity and art,” Hartsook says. “I am continually grateful for the opportunity to work in the field I am passionate about and to witness the depth and power of art therapy.”  

— Author: Holly Scholz, Ford Scholar, Class of 1998

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