Art Lab Rx

Founder Lisa Lounsbury Launches Maggie the Art Bus to Meet Clients Where They’re At

Lisa Lounsbury knew it was time to expand her successful therapy practice, Art Lab Rx. Demand had increased for her programs and she had her eye on a building with a larger footprint. Only she wasn’t convinced it was the answer. Lisa knew that one of the obstacles to success for people in recovery is a lack of access to life-changing programs. It was precisely why she’d been bringing hands-on art therapy to residential treatment centers and delivering her specialized programs in-house. But that brought new challenges. Treatment centers weren’t typically equipped for art therapy. Lugging around bins of supplies was cumbersome, and cleaning up after sessions was time-consuming. Lisa knew there had to be a better way. As she drove by that building one more time and considered what her clients really needed, the solution came to her: “I heard a whisper from God that said, ‘Put it on a bus.’”

Julie believed in Lisa and knew her unique plan for business expansion had merit. A mobile mental health facility would break down barriers for the recovery community and meet an objective that therapists like Lisa worked hard to fulfill—to literally meet people where they’re at and provide the tools and support needed to transform their lives.

Lisa immediately called her soon-to-be-husband, who just happened to be a coach bus driver, and asked him about his long-term career plans. He supported her new vision 100 percent and said he’d be thrilled to be a part of it. She began searching for a coach bus and reconnected with WomenVenture, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit economic development agency whose business planning course she participated in prior to launching Art Lab Rx in 2015. The organization was instrumental in helping Lisa transition from art therapist to entrepreneur. She hoped the organization would help her take her mental health counseling agency to the next level as well, by helping to finance the bus.

Lisa also met with Julie Novak, vice president of commercial loans for BankCherokee. As Lisa enthusiastically shared her vision for an art therapy bus, Julie was inspired by her journey, which began more than a decade earlier. During a nap one afternoon Lisa had dreamt she was helping others overcome addiction using art. Making art had been instrumental in getting Lisa through some of life’s greatest challenges including navigating a divorce, raising her son as a single parent, a job loss, and overcoming her own addiction. She felt so strongly about the power of art in healing that she went back to school and earned her master’s degree in psychotherapy with an emphasis in art therapy.

Julie believed in Lisa and knew her unique plan for business expansion had merit. A mobile mental health facility would break down barriers for the recovery community and meet an objective that therapists like Lisa worked hard to fulfill—to literally meet people where they’re at and provide the tools and support needed to transform their lives.

“Let’s do this!” Julie said to Lisa during that lunch meeting. She immediately got to work developing a plan to get Lisa the funding she needed. That included advising Lisa to utilize existing business funds to purchase the vehicle outright and then use the bus as collateral to secure a loan from the Small Business Administration in partnership with BankCherokee and WomenVenture. That funding enabled Lisa to put money back into her reserves and to create an art studio on the bus, which she named Maggie in honor of Margaret Naumburg, a pioneer of art therapy in the United States.

Lisa retrofitted the bus with everything needed to create a functioning art studio for up to eight people, including movable workstations on wheels, each fully stocked with art equipment and supplies. It was outfitted with an HVAC system, a cleanup area and sink, and a fully accessible bathroom. In fact, the entire bus was thoughtfully designed to be ADA compliant. In November 2018, Lisa officially launched Maggie the Art Bus.

Maggie The Art Bus

Over the past year, Lisa and husband Larry have been taking Maggie wherever she is called to serve, including residential treatment centers, medical centers, community centers and even corporations. Lisa and her team of art therapists specialize in mental health and art therapy and tailor sessions to meet the diverse needs of individuals, couples and groups—including youth and cancer support groups.

Most of all, Art Lab Rx is dedicated to making art therapy accessible to all. And Lisa is thankful to her village of supporters who have provided the guidance and support to make Maggie the Art Bus happen. “BankCherokee believed in me from the start,” Lisa said. “Without BankCherokee and WomenVenture, we simply wouldn’t have Maggie. We wouldn’t be able to bring this life-changing work to those in need.”

“My job is advocating for small business owners and helping them succeed,” said Julie. “It’s been wonderful to support Lisa in this journey of bringing her vision to life.”

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