5 Art Therapy Project Ideas To Make Art With Heart

Art therapy is about giving your mental health a boost, while working on a craft. Creative work often helps folks relax and destress, and gain insight into their own lives. Engaging in an art therapy project in a group can give your community the chance to express ideas or access feelings that might not be easy to talk about, or may not be front and center in your regular lives. Starting an art therapy project not only allows your community to work together creatively, it can also help you build a stronger, healthier community.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is essentially classic therapy mixed with a form of visual art. Art therapists are often trained, credentialed therapists who use creative work to help people heal and learn more about themselves. It can be a powerful way of digging deeper, and reflecting on what our minds are telling us.

But even if you aren’t a trained art therapist or aren’t working with one, you can still start an art therapy project to bring the benefits to your neighborhood! Projects that engage people in creative expression can be an accessible way to work through emotional struggles, learn useful skills, and work toward a new future. What’s more, health—and mental health—doesn’t just happen in a doctor’s office or a therapy session. It happens all around us, with the people we interact with every day, and there are lots of ways you can work with your community to boost health. 

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Getting good done in Cleveland: Over $180,000 raised with matches

It’s still September but we’re ready to say that this was one of our best years yet in Cleveland. Really! All across the city, neighbors proved what we’ve long known—when you set out to get good done, Clevelanders are ready to lend you a hand. 

Earlier this year we launched three crowdfunding matches—the Common Ground match with support from The Cleveland Foundation and Neighborhood Connections, the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Match Fund with support from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, and the Racial Equity Matching Fund with support from Neighborhood Connections. With ioby’s match fund opportunities, resident donations on ioby.org are matched dollar for dollar, helping to grow neighbor’s impact even further. We closed out all three matches last month, and all told neighbors have crowdfunded over $180,000 together to fight for racial justice, bring art and cultural opportunities to the neighborhood, bridge divides to strengthen our communities, and grow our movement for positive civic change. 

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Artists Lead! A new opportunity for changemaking through art

We’re excited to announce the Artists Lead! match program. ioby has partnered with our friends at ArtPlace America to support artist-led projects that create community change. Through Artists Lead!, artists using their skills to address local community issues can access up to $15,000 in match funds for every dollar raised through their ioby crowdfunding campaign. 

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A new toolkit to boost community health

Our communities have powerful and lasting effects on our health. Think about the neighborhood you call home. Are there enough sidewalks and bike lanes to ensure that you can get around safely? Is healthy food easy to access and affordable? Are there well-maintained parks and other open areas for you to spend time outside? 

From our physical environments to our social environments, there are lots of opportunities to shape the places we live and, in turn, shape our health and the health of our neighbors. But sometimes boosting community health can seem like a tall order. Where would one begin? 

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Meet our Fellows! Kicking off our Phase 0 in the South

In August, we looked under the ioby hood to share our Phase 0 process with you. It’s a powerful listening and trusting tool, and we’ve found that it is one of the best ways to see how ioby can best serve residents, including the possibility of opening new city offices.

This month we’re excited to announce our latest Phase 0 research project! It’s designed to help us take the next step in our journey, and understand how ioby can best support grassroots leaders as they bring their great ideas to life in towns, neighborhoods, and whole cities across the South.

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Doubling down for sustainability in Connecticut: Get matched!

ioby is always looking to partner with other organizations innovating in the civic leadership world. Today, we’re proud to announce our new partnership with Sustainable CT, leading innovation in sustainability and equity work inside government. 

Sustainable CT runs a voluntary certification program for municipalities in Connecticut and has been operational since 2016. The model is not unique to Connecticut: similar programs have been in place in New Jersey for 10 years and in Maryland for 8 years. We’ve been familiar with it for a long time at ioby through our work supporting Sustainable Jersey City, and lifted up their work on green infrastructure

So, when we had the opportunity to explore an innovative new partnership with Sustainable CT, it was easy for us to imagine how we might work together. Even so, the depth of the partnership we have today was beyond the scope of our imagination and we couldn’t be more excited. 

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Get your donations matched in Pittsburgh’s Northside!

Pittsburgh’s Northside exemplifies so much of what we love about the Steel City. It’s that energy; the drive to just roll up our sleeves and get good done. And it’s easy to see why! Just take a look around the neighborhood, and you’ll see incredible changemakers like Rev. Eleanor Williams, and the neighbors at Angels in the Garden.

So we’re excited to kick off another season of positive civic change with the One Northside Crowdfunding Match, an opportunity to DOUBLE your crowdfunded donations in the Northside up to $10,000.

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Awesome Project: Wa’na Wanhi, “I am here.”

Davidica Little Spotted Horse is clear-eyed about the challenges that her community on the Pine Ridge Reservation faces.

“Our county is the second poorest county in the United States. We have an 80% unemployment rate here, and I can honestly tell you that if you went into any other town and 80% of people lost their jobs, it would mean chaos,” Davidica, a member of the Oglala Lakota, said. “Our reservation is something like two million acres in size, so it’s a really big reservation, but we don’t have very many resources like gas stations or stores.” 

Those challenges often hit young people the hardest—the community endures a teen suicide rate a whopping four times higher than the national average. But, she says, “I totally know that our people and our kids are super resilient and smart. They have hope. We all have an amazing love for the reservation, and for our territory and for our people. Most of the kids here don’t want to leave. They want to raise their children here, because what we do have is a thriving culture, tradition, family ties, the connections that make community.”

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That Wonky Stuff: Getting to know Cincinnati

We take our commitment to trust and to neighborhood leadership seriously; it’s a core part of why we’re in the world of crowdfunding for communities. At ioby, honoring that commitment starts before we even hire someone to open an ioby office in a new city or region through a process we call Phase 0

Phase 0 is sort of like a check in. It’s a chance for us to do our homework with meaningful research and to listen carefully to neighbors before we make the decision to open an office somewhere. We know that the alternative, coming into a community without knowledge, can often do more harm than good–it might cause us to compete with local organizations for limited resources while simply duplicating efforts, not productive for building a movement of positive change. By doing lots of listening and lots of research before making a decision, we can ensure that we develop a strategy that supports neighbors and makes a meaningful difference in a community.

Recently, David Weinberger, our Director of City Partnerships, wrapped up Phase 0 research in one of our favorite cities, Cincinnati, and we wanted to share what he learned with you.

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Awesome Project: The Bees of Grand Staircase-Escalante

Matt Kelly is a freelance journalist based in the Finger Lakes of New York. The steppes of Grand Staircase-Escalante are pretty far from home–over 2,000 miles, to be exact. And yet, it’s completely natural that he’s there. But he’s also a citizen scientist–a passionate amateur ecologist.

That’s how his ioby project got started. 

“I had reached out to a researcher named Joe Wilson because he had published some really interesting work,” Matt said. After going back and forth about a story that Matt was working on, Joe sent one more email. “He says, ‘Hey, take a look at this map,’ which shows the number of bee species on the east coast versus just in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. And they’re roughly the same,” Matt said. 660 species in the Monument, 770 in the entire Eastern United States and Canada. 

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