Richard Tanner: Art as Therapy

From an injury that left him bedridden for about a year, recent graduate Richard Tanner decided upon a new career and was rekindled by his passion for art.

Having worked as a carpenter for many years, when Tanner became injured, he turned to drawing as a form of therapy. It was then he decided to go back to school to pursue what he really loves to do and soon enrolled at Michigan State University to follow his passion for drawing, printmaking, and sculpture.


Tanner, who graduated May 5 with a BFA in Studio Art and concentrations in Sculpture and Printmaking, now wants to help others heal through art by becoming an art therapist. 

Tanner’s son, who has autism, also has been an inspiration for him, so much so that Tanner has recreated some of his son’s drawings into 3D sculptures. 

“This is a great opportunity for me to really expand on him, to show that with everything that he’s doing there’s something deeper behind it,” Tanner said. 

This experience has further helped to reinforce his decision to become an art therapist.

(Art) was a means for me to cope; I see it as a means for him to cope too.

“I want to be able to work with people, to help them through their problems,” Tanner said. “I know what good (art) has done for me and for my son. It’s about helping other people, and what can be better than that?” 

Tanner recently was awarded the 2019 Jens Plum Award, established by Nancy Plum in memory of her husband, Jens Plum, which is presented to a junior or senior Studio Art major each year whose work reveals special artistic insight through the act or process of drawing. Tanner also received a first place prize in the Visual & Performing Arts category for his oral presentation at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in April.