The Art Room is a nonprofit organization located in Denton that allows individuals with mental health struggles to relieve stressors through art.
At The Art Room, people have the opportunity to sign up online by answering a questionnaire about their mental health state. If they qualify, they are allowed to come to The Art Room during open studio times, which are Thursday evenings and during the day on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Doing art itself is therapeutic,” The Art Room president and Denton resident Marlys Lamar said. “I’m an artist, and for me, whenever I do my own artwork, I just love doing it, and I wanted to share that with others.”
“I have been working on collages and getting a poetry book ready for publication,” frequent visitor and Denton resident Marjorie Chesebro said. “I use the magazines in The Art Room to find things that relate to my poetry. I’ve also recently started an altered book, which I work on when I don’t have any collages to work on.”When individuals come in, they are free to do whatever type of art they like, ranging from collages, painted canvases and three-dimensional crafts. People also create altered books, where they take a novel and turn it into their own work of art, reflecting their personal creativity.
The goal of The Art Room is to give those with mental illnesses an outlet to express creativity and unwind.
“[The Art Room] gives me a feeling of community because I’ve gotten to know the volunteers and other clients, giving me a feeling of belongingness,” Chesebro said. “It has been good for my mental health to express myself creatively.”
People that attended The Art Room have felt like they have gained an escape from their problems in a creative way. The Art Room allows individuals to process their emotions with a supportive community.
“I have used The Art Room as therapy for my grief after I lost my partner of almost 12 years unexpectedly,” Pilot Point resident and frequent visitor Adele Wittman said. “Everyone there has welcomed me with open arms and it has given me a space where I feel completely comfortable to process my emotions.”
There are currently about 75 people signed up at The Art Room to come in during open studio times. There are some people that have not yet come in, but many people come in on a monthly or weekly basis to experience the therapeutic art that is fostered. Lamar wants to provide an outlet for people with mental health issues to unleash creativity and get their mind off of other troubles that they may think about day to day.
The Denton community has not yet had a program like The Art Room, making this program a unique approach to mental health support. Art therapy is a rising concept that allows people to redirect their thoughts away from their mental health problems.
“There’s a lot of research that shows that just doing art improves mental health by increasing dopamine and decreases cortisol, which is a stress hormone,” Lamar said. “[People that do art] are proven to have a higher level of psychological resilience and overall lower levels of depression and anxiety.”
The Art Room is a 501c3 nonprofit, so it is completely free for qualifying individuals to come in and partake in the artistic activities.
“The Art Room is an amazing resource to the artistic community in Denton who might be struggling,” Wittman said. “It is a completely free resource with no strings attached. So many people could find peace and therapy here.”
The Art Room is intended to help those with mental health problems, but is able to distract the participants from what they may think about daily.
“People see us for our art and creativity, even though the art room is very much connected with mental health issues,” The Art Room vice president and Denton resident Maryam Flory said. “For someone struggling with mental health issues, it’s so nice to get a break from thinking about them.”
Once a month at The Art Room, organizers hold classes to encourage and educate attendees about specific types of art and walk them through the process. Lamar said many people come to these classes for the sense of structure, that may not feel as comfortable coming to the open studio times.
“In June, we started having classes,” Lamar said. “Our next class is going to be an acrylic pouring class, which is where you take watered down acrylic paint. It’s going to be messy and it’s going to be fun.”
At The Art Room, people of all backgrounds are welcome to come and relieve stress through art. Lamar finds that the art is the therapy for the participants and it helps to make a difference in their weekly life.
“Anyone who is struggling or dealing with any mental health issues can benefit from The Art Room as place to feel comfortable and free to process anything they are dealing with,” Wittman said.
Featured Image: A sticker advocating mental health is attached to a support ribbon. Students from the University of North Texas wrote positive messages and attached them to ribbons provided by The Art Room Denton. Image by Quincy Palmer