The nine attendees of the Self-Healing Through Art event at Smile Herb Shop were given over an hour, seemingly endless supplies and a relaxing space to work through their emotions by creating art.
Self-Healing Through Art was a way to "explore the process of art making to awaken your innate healing abilities," according to the Facebook page for the class. The event, which cost 20 dollars to participate in, took place on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the shop off Berwyn Road.
Teacher Bonnie Parry fostered exploration by allowing students to discuss their blockages to creativity, having them read positive affirmations, offering access to a variety of crystals and essential oils and imposing no limits on the art created by students.
"I think a lot of our life we're not given permission to do things, and I feel a lot of what I do is giving people permission to be that kid, to use their fingers in the paint if they want to use it," Parry said. "It's like we don't get told that enough as adults, we don't get told to be free."
Throughout the creating process, Parry affirmed students by saying things like, "Only you know when [your work] is complete," and, "Don't be afraid to push it beyond what you would normally do."
Audrene Smith, a resident of Berwyn who attended the class, said she came out because she has been battling breast cancer. She said she has been attending paint nights and using creativity to express "rebirth, recovery, life."
"I saw this [class] and thought, 'Oh my god, this is what I need,'" Smith said. "I'm trying to find different ways to really be with my body and prevent recurrence."
Smith said she never learned how to swim due to a near-drowning experience she had as a child. The discussion at the beginning of the event focused on moving past the "I can't" voice in the back of one's head, and that inspired Smith.
"I think listening to this stuff this morning will get me to a closer place to signing up for [swimming] and breaking through and doing it," she said. "If I can beat cancer I can do that."
Classes like Self-Healing Through Art could be beneficial for University of Maryland students, too, said Cara Snyder. Snyder attended the event and is a graduate student in the women's studies department. She currently teaches WMST250, "Introduction to Women's Studies: Women, Art and Culture"
"I think UMD students need a lot of healing … we have long wait times for therapy, for instance, and the administration says they care about students' mental health but they really need to put their money where their mouth is," Snyder said.
She continued that artistic healing may not be a solution to everyone's mental health struggle, but wishes "the administration invested finances in more things like this [class] and like therapy."
Throughout the class, Parry said students should focus on the process of creating art, not the final product. Snyder believes that University students are "really craving" that sort of learning environment.
"I really think it's good for students to reset and think about, 'What gives me pleasure, what are the ways I like to learn," instead of just, 'How can I get an A, how can I achieve,'" Snyder said. "That's why the arts are so critical, it's not just something fluffy or extra, it's essential to getting back to our humanity, I think.