DePaul’s Brain Fuel Week is back in full swing, providing students with a variety of events
Brain Fuel Week was back in person last week for the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic, providing students with a variety of events to destress and refuel during finals week. One of the main events for students looking to meet new people and paint away was the Art with ACE event that took place on November 8 in the Student Center.
Academic Continuity and Engagement (ACE) held an event with the Transfer Peer Mentors last Tuesday for students who wanted to “paint, color, and draw away your worries.” There, they had an array of food and fun art activities set up for students looking to get their mind off of all the final exam deadlines. Some students, more than others, are feeling stressed with finals just around the corner.
DePaul sophomore Lydia Bonjernoor is studying biochemistry and expressed the weight she felt from all of her STEM deadlines starting to pile up. “For some STEM classes, I have had lab reports due the same day that I had a final exam for the exact same class,” she said.
Similar to Bonjernoor, many students have been feeling the immense pressure to perform well on their final exams and other class assignments. This is why ACE aims to give students a chance to step away and take care of their well-being.
Monica Kronstain is one of the Transfer Peer Mentors who helped organize and work the event with ACE. Kronstain explained that she is also applying to graduate school while balancing her upcoming exams. Her helpful tip for any students struggling through final exams is to, “integrate time for your brain to decompress and take a break mentally.”
“I think art is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety,” she said. “It helps give the mind a break from constantly thinking about exams and provides positive stimulation.”
This event focused on art as a helpful practice for anyone who is looking to destress and relieve their anxiety. The amazing part about making art is that anyone can practice this, no matter how good or bad they are, because the process is more important than the final result.
Although this event was not art therapy, it applied some of the same principles. When diving further into the topic of art as a formal process, the practice of art therapy can help further explain how beneficial expressing oneself creatively can be for mental health.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
This type of therapy can help individuals to channel their emotions and feelings in a way that differs from regular conversational therapy. One of the other benefits to this kind of therapy is that by working with a licensed therapist, they are able to tailor the art activities to a patient’s needs. This can be processing a variety of issues, such as PTSD, depression or trauma, with the general aim to reduce the patient’s anxiety and stress.
It is important to note that art therapy services can only be given by someone who has the required training and certification.
Joan Cantwell currently teaches an art therapy course at DePaul and has a certification and master’s degree in therapeutic expressive arts. Some of Cantwell’s background is also as a behavioral health registered nurse, including working in a Cambodian refugee camp.
“People with various backgrounds had fled a war scene and were finally safe in the camps. They used art to tell their stories and also communicate with one another. I was so struck by this that I pursued additional training when I returned to the [United] States,” she said.
Cantwell explained how even though art therapy is an available resource for people wanting to practice art in a formal therapy setting, anyone is able to benefit from art therapeutically. For students, this can look like scribbling their stress away or even listening to a song and writing about what emotions it brings to the surface.
DePaul transfer student Max Foshee attended the ACE event and agreed that art can help relieve students’ anxiety. Foshee also explained how important it is to focus creativity away from the troubles that we experience at times.
He shared an important quote by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Header illustration by Madeline Smith