SheShinesOn… Käthe Swaback, Raw Art Works


Program Manager with RAW since 1994

Mother to two kids (adopted twins) and one amazing dog

Grew up in Sacramento, CA

Currently reading "A Thousand Mornings" by Mary Oliver

For 20 years she's overseen the development, coordination and administration of all aspects of RAW's 50+ programs

Q: 20 years is a long time with RAW! Do you have a personal connection to the arts, or did you have an artistic/creative upbringing?

Well, when I was 13, for my birthday my father gave me clues in poems that led me throughout the house, one clue to the next. The final clue was in the closet and behind the coats was a brand new silver trumpet. This trumpet brought me so much joy in jazz band and I am now teaching my daughter on it.

Q: Have you worked always worked in art therapy?

Before RAW, I worked as a psychiatric aide and art therapist for an 8-year old boy with Bi-polar illness for an entire year. This was a deep intensive humbling experience where I learned a lot about working with explosive children, creative limit setting and positive reinforcement, the power of art therapy, and how to support families who are giving it their all and who are depleted.

Then after some time with RAW I took a leave of absence but remained engaged as a consultant. During that time I lived in Portland, OR and ran a business entitled, ART UP. I ran a gallery and worked with teens in individual, group, and camp activities. In receiving a grant for “Project Look Up,” we celebrated in large portraits 10 women of color who made a difference in Portland and beyond. These portraits were part of “Art Hop” and were showcased at the statehouse in Salem, OR.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your role as the program manager?

I enjoy managing and prioritizing the huge variety of tasks at hand. In this role I’ve learned a lot about patience, efficiency, mental heath, some Microsoft Excel and how to have a sense of humor. Having a graduate degree in counseling and art therapy, being versed in the art of conflict resolution and knowing how to celebrate the good in kids and staff, helps in the difficult weeks.

Q: What has surprised you the most in your work with these youth?

The good side: How deep engagement with youth in the arts can lead to such positive outcomes in skills, identity, and connection to others.

The hard side: Our society’s lack of resources, lack of skilled workers, and lack of funding for our youth – especially for our youth who have suffered trauma, sexual abuse, and have other forms of PTSD.

Posted in SheShinesOn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *