DERRY — With lines drawn in crayon or brush strokes in paint, people are gaining not only skills on paper and canvas but also support with their feelings and lives.
And that's just what Chip Kimball of Plaistow is saying about his participation in a program at Center for Life Management, or CLM, in Derry, where he can use his artistic talents as a way to share his thoughts and emotions with others.
Kimball participates in CLM's Art From the Heart program, where clients gather to share through the process of creating art, a way to discover things about themselves while drawing, painting or coloring in the class.
Art from the Heart supports the process of healing, clearing the mind, honoring self-expression, building self-esteem, gaining self-awareness, and developing coping skills to reduce anxiety and depression, according to CLM's online site. The facility hosted a recent art exhibit, putting participants' works on display.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is useful in mental health professions, using the creative process of drawing, painting or other art mediums to support the physical, mental and emotional health of people of all ages.
At CLM, Art From the Heart is geared to people over the age of 18, giving those in the class a chance to use art and their own creative flow of energy to produce works that can draw out feelings and emotions, ways to heal, or a vehicle for coping with stress.
Participants do not need any previous art experience to benefit from this group, led by CLM facilitator and art therapist Rosie Emrich.
Emrich said the program gives people a chance to create at their own pace, receiving specific directives to follow as they chart out their own progress in the class.
In Kimball's case, he drew on his own love of art to create several spray-painted works he said helped him tackle some feelings and emotions.
"I didn't realize what this could bring out in me," Kimball said. "Painting is one thing, but art speaks to everybody. It speaks silently as well as out loud."
Kimball has always loved art, since he was old enough to pick up a crayon. He credited Emrich for bringing out the best in him.
"She gives me a different way of seeing things, thanks to Rosie," he said. "The directives are intimidating, but at the same time it's relaxing. The stress goes when I'm in the class."
It's not just simple art being created, Emrich said. It's the process and how each person is feeling as they create and discover things about themselves.
"It's the ability to express yourself," she said. "There is no pressure here. We process together as a group. Nobody is required to share."
Some clients share regularly, showing off a piece of art and talking about what it means.
Emrich said Art From the Heart can help people with many different diagnoses. Using art is also universal, she said, and no one is excluded.
The 12-week program goes through the directives, Emrich said, with everyone working at their own pace. Once they are more involved, people often gain that sense of a deeper, therapeutic spot, with the artwork helping draw them into their own emotions and experiences.
Kimball said Art With a Heart gives him the freedom to create, to share and learn. Kimball is excited to know what his art might say to someone who sees it.
"And I take something out of every class (Rosie) teaches," he said.
For Emrich, leading her clients through the process of creativity and support is part of how she teaches people to share, to heal and find their way.