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OBITUARY: Tally Louise Tripp, Internationally Known Art Therapist

Tally Louise Tripp (Morrow Family Collection)

ALEXANDRIA, VA-Tally Louise Tripp (MA, MSW, LCSW, LICSW, ATR-BC, CTT), an internationally recognized art therapist who brought healing, understanding, and connection to those she taught and mentored around the world, died on December 6, 2023, in Alexandria, VA.

Tally was known widely in the art therapy community and among her hundreds of former students as an inspiring, engaged, and much-loved educator. Her work also profoundly impacted her local community through the George Washington University Art Therapy Clinic, a ground-breaking hands-on student training facility opened in 2008 that provided affordable art therapy sessions to local and regional communities. As Founding Director of the Clinic, Tally was intimately involved in the creation and organization of the Clinic, and she directly supervised a vast number of students who benefited from Tally’s decades of experience working with clients in her thriving private practice.

Tally had a deep and abiding connection to Africa and its people, a love that began with a four-month-long National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) sojourn in Kenya after she graduated from Roanoke College in 1979. After she retired from George Washington University in 2014, Tally engaged fully with her international work in Africa, particularly through the Common Threads Project, where she was the Director of Training. She also worked with the Global Alliance for Africa Therapeutic Arts Program, and most recently with the Nigerian Internationally Displaced Persons Diaspora Support Group (NIDSG). Her work with these and other international groups frequently took her around the world to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Croatia, Nigeria, and Nepal.

Tally’s adventurous spirit was ever present when she traveled, and she took every opportunity afforded her on her far-flung travels to explore new regions and their people. In Katmandu, Nepal in the days leading up to her work there for Common Threads, she hired two guides to take her on a multi-day hike in the foothills of the Himalayas. She became fast friends with her guides, other trekkers, and the residents she met in tea houses along her route. And although she was forced to hike in monsoon conditions and had to pick off leeches who occasionally hitched a ride on her ankles, Tally still judged the experience as one of her life’s peak experiences.

For Common Threads, a New York-based mission focused on providing psychological care to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, Tally designed and facilitated a 10-day training program for local mental health providers on the use of the organization’s unique expressive arts methodology, called a story cloth, that gives victims of gendered violence an opportunity to work through their unspeakable trauma.

Tally returned to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda many times through her work with the Therapeutic Arts Program of the Global Alliance for Africa. The Chicago-based NGO, associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s graduate art therapy program, collaborates with their partner therapeutic artists and counselors in these countries to enhance their skills.

Most recently she worked with the Nigerian Internationally Displaced Persons Diaspora Support Group (NIDSG). NIDSG provides trauma counselling and support for conflict victims of Boko Haram. These are primarily women, children and families who are displaced and traumatized by kidnapping, rape, and witnessing brutal torture and killings. Tally worked with her NIDSG colleagues to design training for counselors who work with these vulnerable populations of children. And in Croatia, Tally helped build the country’s first graduate training program of Art Therapy there and taught in Osijek (eastern Croatia). She was also a guest lecturer at the Institute of Mental Health, Ukraine Catholic University, Lviv.

Tally received many awards during her career, including the 2023 International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) Distinguished Achievement Award. In 2017 she was named as an ISSTD Fellow for her outstanding clinical work and her teaching regarding dissociation and dissociative disorders. In 2014, she was awarded the Potomac Art Therapy Association Professional Scholarship Award for her excellence in professional scholarship and her commitment to art therapy education, supervision, and the promotion of the art therapy field.

As dozens of her friends, colleagues, and family members have said in one way or another, Tally illuminated every room she entered. She exuded a genuine warmth, and her sense of childlike wonder, her interest in every moment of life given to her, and the sheer and unfiltered openness with which she approached every experience was a way of living that allowed her to fully take in what life offered with deep appreciation, joy, and connection. This was particularly true when she engaged with the natural world through her backpacking and wilderness experiences.

It was this spirit and love of the outdoors that took Tally to the top of Mount Kenya during her post-college NOLS adventure in 1979, up the Inca Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu on her second NOLS adventure in 1987, and to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012 for her 57th birthday—a lifelong goal. To see a photograph of Tally taken during one of these adventures, surrounded by her fellow trekkers, face smeared with sunblock and the grime of the trail, is to see someone truly in harmony with life’s most joyous possibilities. Tally had an innate understanding that every moment of life is precious and, as such, worthy of her full attention. And her joyous lust for life was contagious and inspiring to everyone who knew her.

Tally was born at Women’s Hospital in New York City on April 9, 1955, and adopted at birth by Dr. William Henry Tripp (a young OBGYN resident at the hospital) and his wife Joy Lawless Tripp. The young family later adopted a son, Richard Tripp, and moved to West Hartford, CT. In 2018, Tally reconnected with her birth mother for the first time, and as a result forged a close relationship with her large biological family which she deeply cherished. Tally, her husband, and her adult children were embraced by her new-found birth family, and they celebrated last Christmas together along with her 91-year-old birth mother.

Tally attended Renbrook School in West Hartford, CT and the prestigious Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT. She attended Roanoke College in Roanoke, VA (1975 – 1979), a choice she made partially for its proximity to the foothills between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, which allowed quick access to the region’s numerous backpacking trails.

Tally is survived by her husband, Mark Morrow, who she married June 4, 1988, and two daughters Olivia Tripp Morrow and Camille Louise Tripp Morrow; a brother, Richard Tripp; and her newfound biological family including her mother Janet Maxwell Foster Berne and her siblings Cheryl Ann Mallen, Andrew Keith Berne, and Christopher Russell Berne.

A celebration of her life is planned for the morning of April 13th, 2024, at Trinity United Methodist Church on Cameron Mills Road, Alexandria VA with a reception immediately following.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Tally’s memory to one of the organizations to which she gave so much of herself: the Common Threads Project; the Nigerian Internationally Displaced Persons Diaspora Support Group; or Therapeutic Arts Program of the Global Alliance for Africa.

[SEE ALSO: Alexandria City High School Educator Receives Prestigious $25K Milken Award During Surprise Ceremony]

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