Finding Creativity and Inspiration: “We Can Uplift Other People”

Bird artThe next time you visit Swope Health Services Central, take a stroll through the main corridor of Building C, where you’ll find the hallway transformed into a mini art gallery.

The walls are lined with art in many forms and styles, all of it created in an adult day program directed by Carolyn Graves, Community Support Specialist, Adult Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program.

The program encourages creativity and expression as another tool for dealing with Life’s challenges.

“When you’re looking for your creative self, it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult,” says Carolyn. “You find out you can do something you didn’t think you could do. It’s an awesome coping skill.”

Carolyn finds projects that start small and have possibilities to grow. One of the first projects, for example, was coloring. There’s good reason adult coloring books are best-sellers (more than 12 million sold in 2015) and the practice has swept the country.

“It focuses attention,” Carolyn said. “You get to truly be the artist. No two pages are the same.”

Carolyn uses the coloring as an exercise to see different abilities in program participants– some are stronger with color selection, others with line and balance, while others see possibilities beyond the design on the page.

Carolyn teaches different techniques – three-dimensional coloring projects, Zentangle design method, decoupage, painting furniture and other items, for example – giving participants opportunities to find their favorite method of expression.

Art Program Corridor

A view of the corridor at Building C, where Brenda, left, and Angel, display some of the products of the art program.

Two participants at a recent program, Angel and Brenda, talked about how they use their new skills beyond the day program.

“My most favorite thing to do is to color,” said Angel. “It keeps me calm. That’s one of the reasons I come. They say, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ It’s true. I used to think about suicide. I tried a couple of times.”

She continued: “I used to question myself: Why am I here? What good am I? But now, with my art, I get so focused. There’s no room to think about suicide. I can keep focused on something other than myself. I bring it up in my mind as a coping mechanism. I have become a mastermind, thanks to Carolyn.”

The skills Angel learned have given her a new attitude. “I can look in the mirror and see myself as beautiful. I might be having a bad hair day,” she laughs, “but I’m still beautiful.”

Brenda notes that she’s still working toward that level of self-acceptance, but she is proud of the progress she has made. “Sometimes, I’ll leave a little imperfection in my work,” she said.  “I know it’s there, but nobody else can see it. It can still be beautiful.”

Carolyn describes the art as a coping mechanism–a way of focusing your feelings into something positive. “That’s the point,” she says. “You can take this with you. Use it when you need it or use it when you feel good.”

SHS Holiday Mart

From left, Angel and Brenda show an elaborately decorated chair, which will be part of the items offered for sale at the SHS Holiday Mart in November.

For example, a recent project involved painting small stones with affirming messages such as “I hope you dance;” “Stay strong;” and “Love.”

Then the participants placed the stones out into the world, in areas near the Country Club Plaza and at Loose Park.

Said Artist Brenda, “We saw people get so excited, taking pictures when they found them. We saw kids shouting that they found special rocks.”

That the artists could be responsible for bringing such excitement and joy to others was empowering.

“After you understand why you’re doing this, how it could make someone else feel…,” said Angel. “I love it. We can uplift other people. This is for anyone who needs it.”

If you’d like to support our art therapy program with donated art supplies or funds to purchase supplies, please contact Michelle Keller, VP-Community Engagement, Development and Outreach at or 816-599-5556.

Art for Sale

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