HUMAN INTEREST STORIES

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: THE ARTS AS THERAPY

by Jeanni Ritchie

Using creative arts as therapy in treating conditions of mental health is a widely accepted practice. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The idea behind creative arts therapy is that artistic expression can help people to feel better and motivated to recover and address clinical needs such as reducing anxiety.”

You don’t have to be in a formalized treatment program to access the benefits of arts therapy. 

As a participant, you can join community theatre productions both on and off-stage. You can take a pottery class. You can pick up a canvas and some paint and create an own masterpiece in your own living room. Activating the right side of your brain, especially when combined with the socialization of group activities, lends to a holistic approach toward wellness. 

I loved doing community theater when I was younger. I also loved singing solos in church musicals. These days my performances are limited to private car concerts and joining seven year olds at summer dance camps but it’s still activating the part of my brain that sends endorphins flooding into my system. 

Just watching a movie or attending a play helps you feel less isolated. Actor Tom Hanks shares, “Everybody has something that chews them up and, for me, that thing was always loneliness. The cinema has the power to make you not feel lonely, even when you are.”

Same with music. “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours,” explains singer Elton John. 

Engaging in the arts can help to boost confidence and make us feel more engaged and resilient. Besides these benefits, art engagement also alleviates anxiety, depression, and stress. 

There are no shortage of opportunities to experience the arts in Louisiana in July:

River Oaks Square Arts Center in Alexandria has several showcases as part of the 30th anniversary of its Summer Arts Studio. 

Lagniappe Theatre, also in Alexandria, has a family production of Fiddler on the Roof followed by a summer camp production of Lion King Kids

NSU Summer Dinner Theater in Natchitoches will present a groovy 1960’s murder mystery, Live and Let Die, July 16-20th and 23rd-27th. 

Artistic expression flows freely, literally and figuratively, on the fourth Friday of each month in Alexandria at the T.R.E.E. House Children’s Museum’s Free Friday Night from 5-8 PM. This month’s special night is on July 26th. 

Writers can find a variety of author club meetings and roundtable discussions each month at the Alexandria Museum of Art and Rapides Parish Library branches. Check websites for specific times and locations. 

The 12th annual Avoyelles Arts and Music Festival in Marksville has live music, fireworks, and a 4th of July parade beginning at 10 AM. 

Unleash your inner Van Gogh at a Whimsical Art Painting Party in Pineville! Art lessons are also available. 

There are a few movies and specials on my personal radar for July: the long overdue Beverly Hills Cop reunion Axel F on Netflix and Prime Video’s Cirque de Soleil: Without a Net. At the theater in July is Deadpool and Wolverine, Despicable Me 4, and just in time for National Moon Day, the rom-com Fly Me to the Moon. 

The Alexandria Museum of Art kicks off their 37th annual juried exhibition, September Competition, on July 2nd. The exhibition highlights contemporary art practices in all media.

Country star Zach Bryan performs hits like Something in the Orange and Oklahoma Smokeshow at the Suoerdome on July 25th. I recently traveled a 100-mile stretch of interstate behind his equipment trailer!

Whether visual or performing arts, crafts, sculptures, digital art, text, dance, film, literature, music, singing, gardening or culinary arts, they all have one thing in common: arts serve to make a brighter world for us all! 

Jeanni Ritchie is a freelance journalist and advocate for the arts and mental health positivity. She can be reached at jeanniritchie54@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. I am not providing healthcare, medical, or nutritional therapy services or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue. The information provided on my website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new health regimen. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you read in or on this material/website. Do not start or stop any medications without speaking to your medical or mental health provider.

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