Helen Landgarten

From the LMU Newsroom

Emeritus professor Helen B. Landgarten, who established Loyola Marymount University’s Graduate Department of Art Therapy and was among the founders of the field of art therapy, has died. Helen suffered a stroke and passed away Wednesday, Feb. 23, at UCLA Medical Center. She was 89 years old.

Helen established the practice of clinical art therapy at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the 1970’s and founded the first West Coast master’s degree in art therapy at Immaculate Heart College in 1976.

Her successes at Thalians Community Mental Health Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Hospital legitimized the practice and over the years the students she trained expanded the vistas of art therapy. In addition to this key contribution, she epitomized the ideal of a creative life of service.

Landgarten’s legacy as an artist, an art therapist and an art therapy educator is enormous. In addition to pioneering art therapy in the United States, Helen was the first to understand the potential for art to be used as a clinical process within family systems approaches to psychotherapy.

The Graduate Department of Marital and Family Therapy and the Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic at LMU sustain her legacy. The department chair, Debra Linesch, Ph.D., explained: “Helen invented clinical art therapy and breathed her own spirit  as an artist and a psychotherapist into it in ways that we could all follow.”

She brought the graduate program to LMU in 1980, after Immaculate Heart closed. She was the program director and professor until her retirement in 1988, when she became professor emeritus.

In addition to her profound legacy as an institution builder and teacher, she was a prolific author of articles and books, including “Clinical Art Therapy,” “Family Art Psychotherapy,” “Adult Art Psychotherapy” and “Magazine Photo Collage.” Helen’s compassionate legacy continues in the Helen B. Landgarten Clinic, which offers clinical art therapy interventions to underserved children and to families who have experienced trauma or are facing very serious obstacles in life.

Helen is survived by her daughter, Aleda, and son, Mark.  Condolence cards can be sent to: Helen Landgarten Family, c/o Graduate Department of Marital and Family Therapy, University Hall, Suite 2518, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA 90045. The family asks that donations be made in Helen’s name to the Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic, c/o Alma Vorst, 1 LMU Drive, University Hall Suite 2800, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday, February 27, at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Burbank.