The Benefits of Making Art and Participatory Art

Art Background

You don’t have to be an artist to make art.

You don’t have to be an artist to experience the benefits of making art, such as a decrease in the stress hormone, Cortisol.

In fact, there’s evidence that Participatory Art like Art in Recovery and Intuitive Art at TACID, can aid in the wellness and recovery of adults experiencing disabilities and mental health challenges.

Making Art is Good for You

The benefits of making art have been demonstrated in many different settings. A recent study from Drexel University found that making art can reduce stress-related hormones in your body. The study measured levels of the stress hormone Cortisol in participants’ saliva before and after making art. If you didn’t know already, the higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed-out they are likely to be.

For the study, 39 adults ranging from 18 to 59 years old, were invited to participate in 45 minutes of artmaking with paper and markers, modeling clay or collage materials. There were no directions given. Participants could use any of the materials to create any work of art they desired. The researchers found that 75% of the participants tested had reduced cortisol levels after 45 minutes of making art

“Art in Recovery is relaxing and enjoyable. The projects are always fun, and I look forward to it every week—Please stay awesome! Parker

What is Participatory Art?

Here are a few definitions:

  • Participatory Art IS artmaking activities in a community setting (like the opportunities at TACID!)
  • Participatory Art IS NOT Art Therapy, which can only be practiced by licensed art therapists.
  • Participatory Art CAN provide a non-medical context for therapeutic activities.

Participatory Art comes in many shapes and sizes. Visual art, photography, dance, music, writing, and drama can all be done in a participatory setting. Activities can be as simple as a group of people sitting together and painting on paper or canvas. Participatory art can be as complicated as a fully staged, theater production. No matter the activity, the key ingredient is people coming together to explore their creativity through making art in a supportive, non-judgmental environment.   

“Intuitive Art is another step on my recovery path. I can use it as my own therapy and to share the ideas I have with others. I love art and community involvement. Art also brings out my inner child and good memories of childhood.” Paula

The Benefits of Participatory Art

In addition to the biological benefits of making art, another study called “Project eARTh, participatory arts and mental health recovery,” shows the social and personal benefits of making art in a safe and welcoming group setting. The social benefits include peer support—the development of supportive and collaborative relationships with facilitators and fellow participants. Personal benefits include improved social skills and the potential to change how participants see or identify themselves within the context of positive relationships with others.

The majority of the people in the study identified themselves as experiencing a physical or mental health challenge or a combination of both. Participants spoke about the importance of artmaking in a setting where they could express themselves openly— if they participated while having a “bad day”, they would be accepted and mutually supported. The study also suggested that in a safe, non-stigmatizing environment, people can experience increased confidence and identity beyond their diagnosis or illness.

Are you convinced?

We hope so but if you still feel a doubtful, here are a couple more quotes from participants about Intuitive Art and Art in Recovery at TACID.

“I love the freedom to create art and color out my feelings. It’s an expression of what’s going on inside of you. Nadine (Intuitive Art facilitator) is very in tune with our energy and suggests ways to explore and play. I love the encouragement the peers give us.” Ramona

“I enjoy the camaraderie I feel with the other participants and the facilitators. I return to Art in Recovery because I feel comfortable with the people at TACID—Keep up the great work!”  Jamie

We hope you will consider supporting Intuitive Art and Art in Recovery on Giving Tuesday this year! For more information, see our Giving Tuesday page!