Drop-in art program offers OSU students a creative break – Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State sophomore Hannah Murphy typically reserves the midweek time she has between classes for studying.

On a recent Wednesday, however, the 19-year-old spent an hour decorating a mandala design, her hands covered in glitter and marker colors.

Roommate Cassie Wisbang, an OSU sophomore majoring in biology, sat next to Murphy in a room at the Younkin Success Center, at Neil and 10th avenues, clipping eye-catching sayings and photographs from magazines and gluing them to the anatomical heart she had drawn on pink paper.

They listened to relaxing music — Ed Sheeran, the Lumineers — as they tapped their creative sides, forgetting about upcoming tests or assignments, if only for a little while.

Wisbang would probably have been doing homework that afternoon had she not been working with scissors.

“But I think this is needed,” she said. “Sometimes we get stressed out.”

The time free from academics came courtesy of the Art Space Workshop, a weekly drop-in art program open to all Ohio State students — a place to communicate their feelings and thoughts through artistic expression.

Art Space was introduced in the fall by the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Department.

The crafty activities are meant to help students de-stress — something many of them need but often overlook, said Shayla Krecklow, a clinical fellow at OSU and licensed professional counselor.

“A lot of students forget to take breaks and this is a subtle reminder that it can be beneficial,” said Krecklow, who helped introduce the program. “If you’re studying however many hours straight, you don’t retain as much as if you take a break and come back to it.

“This is people saying, ‘It’s OK to take a break.’”

Art Space facilitator Sadi Fox said that coloring, drawing and other artsy exercises can be an ideal way to forget the challenges of schoolwork.

“Art takes your attention,” said Fox, a clinical therapist. “It brings you into the present. If mindfulness is there, you’re engaged in the here and now. When you’re engaged, you can see a decrease in depression, a decrease in anxiety and an increase in concentration and ability to study — which are goals all students have to be able to be successful academically.”

Research has shown that art therapy can enhance people’s well-being, Fox said, and the university wanted to explore that possibility further, especially given how popular art can be with students.

When the counseling department hosts “recess” relaxation events — with activities such as sports, storytelling, games and art — the art stations generally are the most attended, she said.

At the start of each workshop, she or another staff member welcomes students, invites them to write songs they want to hear on a whiteboard in the room and introduces them to “an entire assembly line of materials,” Fox said.

“We have pastels, crayons, markers, scissors, magazines to cut from, blank mandalas.”

The mandalas are intended for students to color if they don’t want to follow that week’s prompt for self-reflection.

The prompt last week was to create a representation of hobbies or a relationship close to one’s heart or to explore why students might be grateful. The novice artists were encouraged to look at the symbol of a heart.

Faith Lynd filled a heart outline she made with construction paper with words that reminded her of her childhood — for which she is most thankful.

The time gave her the opportunity to reflect on other aspects of her life besides her studies to become a social worker.

“It gets lost a lot in schoolwork, trying to keep up and extracurriculars,” said Lynd, a sophomore.

Plus, the hour spent at Art Space was far more constructive, she said, than bingeing on previous seasons of the Showtime series “Shameless.”

She was coaxed into attending the workshop by friend Kaycee Bethel, using it to fulfill requirements of the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program, in which both participate. STEP is intended to enhance students’ experiences on campus and the Art Space is among a number of activities students can join in.

The workshop draws as many as 30 students — generally a mix of STEP participants and drop-in students seeking a unique way to relax, Fox said.

Although Julia Barone attended last week in part because of STEP, the sophomore public-health major said she plans to return again.

“I loved it. It was a time I could focus on something other than school. It was great to take an hour for myself, which can be hard to do as a busy college student.”

Not only does Art Space help students unwind, Krecklow said, but it also fosters a dialogue between them and the counseling department in case students need additional assistance.

“It’s a really easy way for them to meet a therapist,” she said. “They see us and think, ‘Hey, you guys are real people,’ and it makes therapy more accessible.”

award@dispatch.com

@AllisonAWard

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