In the midst of stay-at-home orders and self-isolation, having a creative outlet can offer a way through anxiety and stress. Carbondale-based expressive art therapist Sheri Gaynor says people can start an art practice during the coronavirus pandemic to deal with stress, connect with family or just help them identify how they’re feeling.
Gaynor, a licensed clinical social worker, teaches Art, Healing and Hope, an art therapy course for those suffering from cancer, addiction and other serious mental and physical issues. She’s also the author of “Creative Awakenings: Envisioning the Life of Your Dreams Through Art.”
Gaynor spoke with Aspen Public Radio’s arts and culture reporter Christin Kay.
Christin Kay: My first question for you is just how are you right now?
Sheri Gaynor: For me personally, this has been somewhat of a surprise in terms of my own resilience. I'm a single woman. I live alone but I live in a great neighborhood. I have wonderful neighbors; we all know each other. And I feel really blessed that I already had an online community. That now is both solace for me and a place of regeneration and creativity. It's just a different way of being for all of us right now.
CK: You’ve walked people through trauma and through intense emotions. What do you think we need to be particularly aware of in this time of uncertainty?
SG: What I'm hearing most from people in my online groups or who I'm working with one-on-one now through Zoom is just the isolation. You know, not all of us live in a family situation and so I think it's finding ways to stay engaged. I feel really grateful that so many people, I mean from Hollywood to Broadway to Carbondale, so many people are just offering up ways for people to gather, stay informed, stay connected and you know, in some way, stay creative.
CK: You're an artist and you focus on art therapy. What role does creativity have to play here?
SG: When I mean creativity, I don't mean just being an artist. There’s the idea of creative innovation, which in this time is really needed more than ever. We can see that in so many ways, with people who know how to use 3-D printers making mass and other things for our healthcare providers.
And then there is the more active and engaged form of of art or creativity. And maybe you've been working a nine-to-five job, or three jobs, and that's a part of you that you haven't been able to activate. It's not like you have to go out and buy millions of dollars of supplies. If you have kids at home, grab their watercolors, grab their crayons, set up an area in your house or a tarp on your floor.
You may even offer family time to do this, where everybody just takes a few moments and they breathe and then they go into a “What am I feeling?” drawing. And then each person shares that drawing. Start there.