Nikyta has always been a art maker in many modalities. She spent her high school career in theater, which after ten years culminated in a Conservatory degree in Theater Arts from the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in 1999. During this time, Nikyta found that she was as drawn to work in service to healing others as she was being a art-maker and performer. During the interim between theater and the discovery of Expressive Arts Therapy, Nikyta became a Yoga Instructor, honing the somatic experience of healing and increased awareness of the mind body connection. In 2001, Nikyta took her first introduction to Expressive Arts Therapy and found that her entire life history thus far was tailor made to this work. Between 2002-2005 Nikyta completed a Bachelors in Visual Arts from the University California, San Diego, and concurrently began her Masters work in Expressive Arts Therapy in 2004 at the European Graduate School and Expressive Arts Institute of San Diego. She completed her course work in 2007, and the same year was gifted $100, 000 from Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation to begin her own Expressive Arts Therapy Program at San Diego Youth Services (SDYS).
She has since founded three Expressive Arts Therapy Programs, trained students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, been a guest instructor at JFK University, taught at numerous retreats and conferences, and works in private practice. She now lives and works on the San Juan Islands and combines her Expressive Arts practice with education in many different venues.
The journey of Expressive Arts at San Diego Youth Services:
Nikyta began her first practicum site working with the homeless youth of SDYS’s Storefront Teen Shelter. Her passion and engagement, as well as rightness of fit with this population saw her advance from just a few hours a week to a paid part time position. During this time, she was active doing art shows with clients in local galleries, creating community art based projects like murals, and doing individual and group sessions. Much of this work is still on the SDYS website:
This work caught the attention of the media, and in 2005 KPBS’s Full Focus media team did a prime time segment featuring her work at the Storefront. See the whole 12 minute episode here, with focus on Nikyta & her work with youth in Expressive Arts Therapy beginning at time 3:48- 9:00 :
Since this time, Nikyta innovated her work at SDYS from one to nine sites working with diverse popluations of at-risk youth. Populations included: Youth in adoptions, foster care, both hearing and deaf group homes: see her work with deaf youth and story telling here:
Nikyta also partners with local galleries to help youth both gain the real world experience of a gallery show, and to gain self esteem by being exhibiting their work. As part of the SDYS H&nds Project Nikyta photo documented staff, youth, and other members of the SDYS community. Partnering with the Alexander Salazar Gallery in downtown San Diego, she also enlisted the help of local graffiti/fine artists, see the television interview about it here:
While working with survivors of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Nikyta incorportated the SDYS H&nds project into a vehicle for survivors to express themselves to the world. See the photos of this journey, and the responses from the community here, focused on Nikyta’s work with youth from start to 3 mins:
Nikyta also founded an Expressive Arts Therapy Program for the Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara, CA. She worked with at-risk youth populations, transitional aged youth, youth in group homes, transitional housing, and CSEC.