The therapeutic nature of the arts has been well-documented since its professionalization in the 20th century. Art therapy has been shown to improve the quality of life of the terminally ill, improve sociability in children on the autism spectrum, and operate as a mechanism for coping with grief, depression and other emotional ailments.
The widespread prevalence of the arts makes art therapy’s appeal nearly universal. But for students at SUNY New Paltz, options for art therapy can be few and far between. Enter the Creative Artsy Outlets, a club founded by second-year students Jamie Lazan, a double major in sociology and theater, and Anjali Zacharopoulos, a sociology major. The club aims to promote self-healing through artistic expression, and they cover just about every form of art one could imagine.
“I wanted something that wasn’t just based on music therapy or art therapy,” said Lazan, who came up with the idea during her first semester at SUNY New Paltz after seeing that the only art therapy club on campus was limited to music. “I wanted it to be all types of therapy so everyone with different interests can come together.”
Lazan and Zacharopoulos are no strangers to the world of the arts. Lazan graduated from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, having studied theater there in addition to completing “a lot of intensive training in musical theater camps.”
Zacharopoulos, meanwhile, attended LaGuardia High School — a Manhattan-based high school that specializes in visual and performing arts — to study painting, something she’s been using to “help cope with [her] own personal issues throughout [her] entire life.”
Originally, their plan was to work with special needs children, but the idea grew and expanded beyond that initial intent. Now, they work with students on campus as well as children in the New Paltz Youth Program.
“We have really good connections with [the New Paltz Youth Program] and we do programs with them,” Zacharopoulos explained. “I worked there for a semester and Jamie volunteered there.”
“I love working with kids,” Lazan added, “and I love working with students on campus and giving them a safe space to be themselves no matter their race, their background, their major, their preferences [or] their differences.”
The Creative Artsy Outlets was officially chartered by the Student Association this semester, but Lazan and Zacharopoulos have already set their gazes to the club’s future. For Lazan, that means giving people a platform to express themselves to an audience.
“What I want to do with this club is to be able to, at the end of the semester — after we’ve done all these workshops in art forms like music, theater and dance — put on a show where everyone who’s part of it — who’s gone through something vulnerable or something has gone through their head that they overcame, that made them into the person they are today, or that they’re trying to overcome — can present it through art in a showcase.”
The Creative Artsy Outlets meets on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in Room 232 of Old Main.