By Janet Mazur Cavano
Turning to a creative outlet during challenging times such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can make a huge difference in one’s well-being. This is especially so for children who often do not have a way to express their fears and anxieties. It is no surprise then that “Creative Expressions Arts and Wellness,” the art therapy program Monmouth Arts recently launched, has taken off so successfully.
“It is SO needed right now,” said Teresa Staub, executive director of Monmouth Arts. “When we did other programming, we saw how children are struggling, and how much that has increased; there is still so much they are going through.”
Funded by a 2021 Impact 100 Jersey Coast grant of $107,500, the program addresses youth mental health issues by engaging children in artistic self-expression. During a four to six-week period, teams build relationships with the children and identify those who could benefit from additional mental health services.
This summer alone, in seven different locations across Monmouth County, some 387 children ages 5 through teens have participated. They have learned to reduce stress, channel negativity and create beautiful art in the process. Ten working artists and mental health professionals, including several Spanish-speakers, are guiding the children through workshops on drumming, Hip-Hop dancing and empowerment through movement. Other programs focus on fine art and writing including, “What’s on your mind,” a program where participants create a self-portrait and then write a short paragraph about who they are.
In addition, “Creative Expressions,” recently offered an innovative activity, “The Art of Letting Go,” at Freehold Raceway Mall. Participants were invited to write on balloons the negative things they’re trying to push out or escape from. Likewise, Monmouth Arts sponsored a Teen Arts Festival.
Among the feedback Monmouth Arts has received from participants:
“The art sessions made me feel a little relaxed.”
“It made me feel happy and calming while I was listening to music.”
“I like that I can draw what I want.”
“Good being able to draw my feelings.”
Through the grant, Monmouth Arts has hired a coordinator to oversee the entire program and will continue to offer more workshops in the fall. The ultimate aim is to reach 2,000 children.
“We are more than on track to reach our goals and objectives,” Staub said, adding that the organization is seeking more places to offer “Creative Expressions,” such as after school programs. In fact, if your group could benefit from “Creative Expressions,” contact Monmouth Arts.
Celebrating its 50th year in operation, Monmouth Arts is a leading, independent, 501c(3) arts advocacy organization that delivers needed programs and services to artists, member organizations, and art affiliates to ensure the arts thrive in every corner of Monmouth County. Its mission is to provide programs and services that support the practice, presence, and influence of the arts and of artists throughout the county.
Since its inception in 2016, Impact 100 Jersey Coast has awarded more than $2,000,000 in transformational grants to 18 local organizations. A women’s giving circle, Impact has created a forum to raise awareness of the community’s most pressing needs and fund transformational grants for high-impact projects addressing those needs. Impact 100 JC has also expanded its giving circle to encompass the richness of ideas, perspectives and the participation of diverse women from a wide range of identities.
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.