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Art Therapy: Exploring the Health Benefits of Creating Art

a person sitting on a bed

Art is everywhere. It’s an essential part of the human experience, found in everything from a child’s sketchbook to a striking mural on the side of a brick building downtown.

Something special can happen when people go from experiencing art in everyday life to creating it for themselves. Art creation means embarking on a creative journey of self-discovery that can have many health benefits, including boosting your self-esteem, providing you a safe outlet to relieve your emotions, giving you a sense of control over your life, and helping you to get to know and understand yourself better.

Below are just some of the ways science is revealing art’s true value, particularly for individuals with disabilities.

Art can be a teaching tool

Art teaches us about ourselves and our history

Art tells a story of who we are; its importance is evident in the way it makes us feel, act, and grow as individuals. Art can be informative and thought-provoking—a way to look into the past and draw out some relevance for society today.

Surveys show that high school students in the United States who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer than those who don’t. They are also 20% more likely to vote when they become young adults.

Art helps us develop soft skills

Art can be more than something people do in their free time. Creating a piece specifically for an exhibition theme can increase an artist’s adaptability, such as the Love is a Rainbow exhibition from Open Door Art Studio which is centered on the themes of love and inclusivity.

In terms of applying for a job, there are plenty of skills associated with a position, like typing or bookkeeping, but many employers are also aware of the importance of soft skills, like the ability to think creatively, adapt to different situations and challenges, and collaborate with other members of the team. The arts can be a great way to develop these soft skills and become a more well-balanced professional.

Deb painting her latest masterpiece at Open Door Art Studio

Working with other artists on a project can build collaboration and friendships that can last a lifetime. Long-running Open Door Art Studio art exhibition This Inspired That features local Columbus artists getting connected and creating works inspired by each other.

(Check out the This Inspired That slideshow below)

Art can give us a place to come together

Art goes deeper than just personal development. The overall social impact of the arts is essential: People from all cultures can unite and build better communities through the arts.

From art exhibition openings to theater groups, the arts provide an opportunity to gather with other people from all walks of life. Several case studies have actually demonstrated that art in rural communities specifically can help boost economic growth. Further, it strengthens the bonds between people in these places.

It’s also worth noting the importance of art in society when it comes to tourism. Cities like New York City and Seattle are full of endless museums and theatres. But even in smaller cities and towns across the United States and the rest of the world, the arts provide unique economic opportunities.

Love is a Rainbow opening reception

Art is therapeutic

Studies also show that creating art stimulates the release of dopamine, a chemical that tells us something is pleasurable—basically it makes us feel happier. Increased levels of this “feel-good” neurotransmitter can be particularly helpful if you are battling anxiety or depression.

According to a Q&A With Lucy Jahns, Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor, we have to come up with different directives for different people, including people with disabilities.

“The main goal of art therapy is for art therapists to present their client with a specific creative process. You just find the form of art making that’s best for the client. We should all be doing art to keep us healthy.”

And it can be very rewarding when things seem to “click,” and the artist takes ownership of what they’ve done.

Jahns notes, “We all have our own signature in art making, our own brand. When they’re passionate about something, it comes out in their work.”

Art can inspire anyone’s life journey

An important footnote in all of this: you don’t have to be a seasoned artist in order for art to be therapeutic; it can happen right away. Open Door Art Studio & Gallery believes in the transformative power of the arts, and so many folks have used their unbound creativity to not only create beautiful works on canvas, paper, and clay, but also to make significant strides in their physical, mental, and social health.

This includes people with disabilities. For example, Ron started attending Open Door Art Studio three days a week and had very little art-related experience. It took him a couple of weeks to get into the groove, but after that, there was no stopping him. He experimented with a few different mediums before landing on acrylics, and within no time developed his own unique artistic voice. His works are filled with movement and personality.

When representatives from Wild Goose Creative visited the studio to select pieces for the exhibition they were hosting, they were immediately drawn to Ron’s work. They ended up selecting two of his pieces to be featured, and Ron was able to attend opening reception for this exhibition.

Ron hard at work on his latest masterpiece
Ron's two selected works for the Wild Goose Creative art show

We hope that through making these sorts of program a priority, more folks can take advantage of the power of art!

To learn more about Open Door Art Studio & Gallery in Grandview, OH, including upcoming exhibition dates, click here.

Open Door

Open Door is a Columbus-based nonprofit provider for individuals with developmental disabilities. Our mission and vision are to inspire life journeys and cultivate valued roles for all people. What door can we open for you?

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Art creation means embarking on a creative journey of self-discovery that can have many health benefits, including boosting your self-esteem, providing you a safe outlet to relieve your emotions, giving you a sense of control over your life, and helping you to get to know and understand yourself better.

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