Dolls4Peace Memorial

Liberatory Community Art Action and Praxis


  • Rochele Royster Art Therapy & Counseling, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA



art therapy, community psychology, public education, public housing, segregation, gun violence, community resistance, doll making, memorial


This community/art based participatory research project encompassed communal art making practices (art as therapy) to build community, heal and resist systemic oppression and community violence, as well as promote self-care, empowerment, and a sense of purpose. Using an ecological model, participants engaged in community-based art therapy to build and heal communities impacted by gun violence. This "Doll Project" developed as a grassroots approach to arts-based social change—an ongoing cycle of creation, reflection and action with the hope to create a wave of healing and understanding through impacted Chicago communities. This process was intended to engage communities and embody the use of creativity to shift power and flatten hierarchies, largely by building up leadership of those most impacted by violence. The art of doll making was used to memorialize victims of gun violence in the city in record-high years of murders, while simultaneously creating a memorial of resistance, and initiating community-based adaptive change practices for social equity, connectedness, and liberation. Two questions are highlighted by this research: How does gun violence impact school communities within largely isolated, marginalized urban communities? How can we best support those who witness and survive gun violence?

Author Biography

Rochele Royster, Art Therapy & Counseling, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA

Rochele Royster, Ph.D, ATR-BC is an artist, art therapist, community psychologist and educator in Chicago. She has worked for the last 20 years integrating art therapy into the educational setting working with neurodivergent youth, adolescents and their families. She has taught at the Department of Art Therapy and Counseling at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Depaul University (Department of Education) and Adler School of Psychology (Clinical Psychology Department Doctoral Program). Using a transdisciplinary approach, she is interested in community and school-based art therapy; race, power and policy in education, multisensory methods in reading and literacy, trauma informed classrooms; environmental justice; black disability and special education as it relates to liberation of pedagogy and practice in institutional and public settings. Her dissertation developed as a grassroots approach to arts-based social change and addresses gun violence, death and grief through memorials of resistance. She assisted in creating transformative art based social justice curriculum for Cities of Peace/Jane Addams Hull House, The Teacher Institute/ Museum of Contemporary Art, Office of Arts and Education at Chicago Public Schools and has conducted workshop series for Chicago Park District Young Cultural Stewards and Art Seed teaching artists. She has also worked with sexual, domestic violence and human trafficking survivors and Cambodian youth refugees. Rochele is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Art Therapy Association. In Summer 2021, Rochele will join Syracuse University as Assistant Professor of Art Therapy in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Photo of author Rochele Royster



How to Cite

Royster, R. (2021). Dolls4Peace Memorial: Liberatory Community Art Action and Praxis. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 21(1).