By Haley Nakonechny
What do Vincent Van Gogh and a college student finger painting a sunflower have in common? Both are people who use art as a tool for improving their mental health and expressing themselves.
This semester, the College’s Healing Arts Club made its debut on campus, where the organization strives to promote mental health awareness by creating art in a safe and inclusive space.
Offering several events throughout the semester, such as DIY sticker-making and a guided painting class with Bob Ross, the club is full of students with varying majors and artistic talents.
Founded by senior biology major Kaley Arnold and senior interactive multimedia Natalie Walters, the club was created to be a positive outlet for students to express themselves. Inspiration for the club came from Arnold’s and Walters’ love of art and passion for creating more mental health resources on campus.
“Art has many therapeutic benefits — it has been shown to decrease stress levels and increase focus,” said Arnold, who is also the club’s president. “When (we) first met on our freshman year floor, we hosted paint nights, which allowed us to meet many different people, allowing for a smoother transition into college. Ultimately, we want to share our love for art and its benefits with others.”
Now in their senior year of college, the two friends promote the benefits of art and share them with students at the College in a fun and calming manner. With mental health being such an important aspect of college life, Walters feels that the Healing Arts Club will be a useful addition for students.
“Recently the stigma surrounding mental health has started to recede, and people are more comfortable addressing these issues, whether it be formally or informally,” said Walters, who is the vice president. “Ultimately, we are aiming to create an inclusive environment that gives students a tangible way to blow off steam and destress while expressing themselves.”
Although the organization is new on campus, the members have many ideas and aspirations for the club, which they will likely implement in the near future.
“Our goals for the club going forward are to host monthly meetings to discuss different topics followed by an art project,” Arnold said. “We hope to continue to form co-sponsorships with other clubs on campus. In addition, being that this is the club’s first semester at TCNJ, we hope to build a strong foundation so that students can continue to benefit from its mission.”
Essentially, the club is striving to create an environment on campus in which anyone can utilize art, no matter their skill level, as a means to encourage a healthy conversation about mental health.
“We are very excited to share our love of art with the TCNJ campus and see their love of art reflected back,” Walters said. “More than anything, we are most excited to be a safe space for TCNJ students to feel comfortable expressing themselves.”