West Liberty’s C.A.T. club hosts event for students to fight COVID-19 struggles through art

Creative Arts Therapy event on campus aims to fight COVID through art
By: Creed Kidney
On Oct. 16, members of West Liberty’s C.A.T. club, and students of the Creative Arts Therapy major alike, hosted an event in hopes to fight the woes of COVID-19 through the power of artistic expression. Spearheaded by freshman Manuela Hoffman, the gathering offered things like writing out words of power on a canvas, documents of anxiety, fear, and sadness shared the painted space; along with a more kinetic exercise, that invited students to burst water balloons filled with paint on a standing canvas to release pent up energy. When interviewed about the demonstration and how it came about, Manuela shared that she heard many of her peers sharing feelings of frustration; “We wanted to combat that restriction that we’re all having to deal with, something that can let students get out and be together – all while being creative.
It’s rather common knowledge that art is viewed as a deeply powerful form of self-expression, naturally, alike to many other creative outlets and practices; but Dr. Susan Ridley, assistant professor of the Creative Arts Therapy program, feels that it goes much deeper than that; “Art is an extremely powerful medium, and it’s a tremendously powerful tool for self-expression – in all its forms. This is why we wanted to offer so many different modalities, to show that such expression can be done in any way. (Note: “different modalities” refer to the various exercises present at the event hosted by the C.A.T. club.) During these unprecedented times in our world, when restriction is so high and you’re confined to a box, you have to make it a point to be expressive; burst out of the box, spread out into your world. This allows that to happen, art allows such creative expression, even if we’re really still stuck in our boxes – art allows us to break down those walls. Art therapy is for those who don’t have the words or language to express themselves, but that same idea expands itself into the very nature of art itself. It allows for that subjective distance in responding to feelings or thoughts, and releases them at the same time.”
With a beautiful, sunny day on the quad, it seemed like the perfect day for such expression to take place; even those who don’t feel particularly drawn to art, or might not find themselves to be inherently artistically talented or inclined, were welcome and invited to come and simply create, and release whatever feelings had fermented over the long and torturous lockdown. Once again, though, Manuela and Dr. Ridley both want it to be known that it’s not about the ability, but the act of creating itself. “It’s about the process, not the finished product. It’s about what you meant along the journey of creation, not technical skills or talent. You don’t have to be creative to heal wounds through creating,” Dr. Ridley shared when asked if people might feel like they couldn’t get involved because of their lack of creative skills.
Manuela perfectly illustrated this same point when asked the same question, and as one of our peer students and community members, I believe it carries that much more weight to the freshman, sophomore, junior or senior here at West Liberty still feeling the effects of the emotional weight of the pandemic… “Anyone can do it, whoever thinks they can’t just hasn’t found the right thing yet. Anyone can do art.”