By: Jackie Jankewicz
Empowering Youth: The Transformative Power of Art to Improve Mental Health
Art is a powerful form of self-expression, especially for children who may have difficulty articulating their feelings verbally. The Creative Expressions Arts & Wellness Program from Monmouth Arts uses painting, drawing, music and dance to help children communicate their emotions, thoughts and experiences in a safe and constructive way. Funded by a 2021 grant of $107,500 from Impact 100 Jersey Coast, the initiative is now in its second year and has reached more than 1,800 kids across Monmouth County.
Designed to address the rise in mental health issues among children, the program was in full swing during the recent summer camp season. Teams of teaching artists and mental health professionals delivered free arts programs and services at sites throughout Monmouth County, including the Red Bank Boys and Girls Club, Long Branch Boys and Girls Club, and the Freehold Family YMCA, among others.
Helping Kids Express Themselves
One of the projects offered in the program is an art assignment called “Unzip Your Mind.” The activity uses the zipper imagery to “unzip” thoughts, emotions, or anything else kids would like to release from their minds. For this project, each child receives a blank canvas and a colored zipper of their choice. The child can decide whether they want their zipper open or closed on the canvas, and once they hot glue the fabric down, they can draw or paint anything they’d like to let go of. During the program, the teachers build relationships with the children and identify those who could potentially benefit from additional mental health services.
“I was one of the participants in Monmouth Arts very first Teen Arts Festival,” said Dr. Carol Penn, Impact 100 member and grant liaison. “I can say that the experiences provided by Monmouth Arts can shape a life. I know because it shaped mine! The combination of knowledge, creativity and curiosity equals a super power that is nowhere better molded than by exposure to and experience with the arts.”
Strong Program Satisfaction
“Monmouth Arts coming is my favorite part about my week. I love art.” Student from Neptune Boys & Girls Club
Monmouth Arts is committed to measuring the impact of the Creative Expressions program. It uses an online platform called Hello Insight to continually evaluate and respond to participants social and emotional learning needs. Pre and Post surveys are taken using Social Emotional Learning (SEL) surveys created by Hello Insight. The most recent data collected from the Asbury Park Boys & Girls Club participants showed 100% program satisfaction.
Grant Inspires Art Program for Seniors
The success of the Creative Expressions program has inspired a new initiative from Monmouth Arts to bring the transformative power of the arts to the senior community. Dubbed the Creative Aging Campaign, it is being piloted at the Red Bank Senior Center. By bringing seniors together socially to express themselves through art, the program seeks to remedy the isolation and disconnection many experience.
Impact 100 Jersey Coast Honored
Monmouth Arts is honoring the women of Impact with a community service award on Sept. 28th at Monmouth Arts After Dark: The Art of the Impossible in Asbury Park. Learn more athttps://www.monmoutharts.org/the-art-of-the-impossible
Arts and Culture
Monmouth Arts provides programs and services that support the practice, presence, and influence of the arts and of artists throughout Monmouth County.
In partnership with teaching artists and mental health professionals, the Creative Expressions Arts & Wellness Program will apply art forms such as painting, music, and dance to address the rise in mental health issues in Monmouth County youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic.