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Meet Liz Tomko of Artplay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Liz Tomko.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My dad is a botanist and decided to take a job with the Australian government when I was 12 years old, so we moved to the outback of Australia, where my wise art teacher told me to become an art therapist when I grew up (because I was analyzing the art of all the students in the art class). I tucked that advice into the back of my mind and once I had graduated high school, moved to the coast of Australia and managed a menswear. After a couple years, I decided to move back to the States to go to college, getting my degree in Fine Arts and pursuing a graphic design career, knowing I was too young to be taken seriously as an art therapist. After 10 years, I felt mature enough to follow-through on the wisdom of my outback Australian art teacher, so I found Ottawa Universities Expressive Arts Therapy program and signed up. Once graduated, I knew I did not want to work in an agency, school or hospital, knowing that I wanted to create a non-clinical environment for kids to learn how to reduce their anxieties through expressive arts. This led to drawing up the Artplay business plan, which is unique because we do not take insurance or diagnose kids, plus we have a store that sells fun therapeutic tools and toys. Artplay is a healthy, creative place that kids enjoy coming to learn how to identify and manage their emotions.

Has it been a smooth road?
I slowly grew Artplay by going to pediatric offices and offering to help their current clients with their emotional needs. I knew they were helping kids with speech, OT and PT, but the emotional component was missing, so a couple pediatric offices had me come in to help kids in the evenings and on Saturdays. Once I had grown a referral base of clients, I rented one room in a small office for a year and then moved into retail space where I had exposure and could sell therapy toys. The biggest challenge for Artplay was renting retail rather than office space because the landlord and lease were both unsupportive. I almost could not make it financially due to all the extra operating expenses (CAM). So, after my short two-year lease was up, I gladly moved into office space with an ultra-supportive landlord. My real-estate person was renting in this complex, so like policemen knows a good pizza place, real estate agents know a good landlord. I made it over the financial hurdle and am now thriving.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Artplay is a non-clinical environment where kids can learn how to identify and manage their emotions. We conduct one-on-one hour-long sessions on a bi-weekly basis, where kids come to Artplay to play feeling-based games, make sensory items and make art, all while sharing how they feel about school, home, friends and family.

We help kids from 3-18 years old if they feel anxious for a variety of reasons: loss of a family member or animal, divorce of parents, social concerns, illness such as cancer, moving state, fears at night, being on the spectrum, etc.
All Artplay helpers have their Master’s in Professional Counseling and we specialize in Expressive Arts.

We are most proud of the fact that we are helping kids at a young age to manage their emotions, so they can be successful teens and adults. We are teaching skills that will last a lifetime, so we consider what we are doing as “preventative.”

I am most proud of the fact that Artplay has helped so many kids and parents are so thankful they gush. Very often parents will tell us that they take their child to get emotional help and the professional takes their kid into a room and the parent never gets any feedback. We are set apart by the fact that we communicate with the parents about their child’s emotional needs, so we are working together as a team.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Most graduates of Ottawa’s Expressive Arts Therapy program immediately go to California or other states that have a higher acceptance rate of creative therapies because work is guaranteed. This leaves Phoenix without many options, so if this is a career someone is choosing, Phoenix is an excellent place to be! The demand is there and the supply is low.

Pricing:

  • Individual Sessions are $85
  • Family Sessions are $100
  • Social Groups are $25

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1130 E. Missouri Avenue, Suite 350,
    Phoenix, AZ 85104
  • Website: artplayhealing.com
  • Phone: 602-329-1347
  • Email: hello@artplayhealing.com

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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