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. 

How art therapy works

You don’t have to be a professional artist, or therapist, to get something meaningful from art therapy!  Regularly creating art — whether it’s drawing, playing an instrument or knitting a sweater — can start to unlock new parts of your brain. The benefits can be as simple as stress-relief, or as complex as helping people and groups to develop new strategies for working through grief, depression, trauma, addiction, and many other obstacles. What’s more, there’s a lot to be gained by doing it together, too. 

Communities that work together to heal and find new avenues to mental health become hubs for positive change and wellbeing. So whether you’re a trained therapist, a trained artist, or just someone who loves creative expression, ioby can help you provide more opportunities for your community to grow stronger through art therapy. 

Art therapy ideas to inspire your own project

When it comes to art, (almost) anything goes! In fact, great art and artists can be found all around every community—including yours!  Tap into these art therapy projects that crowdfunded on ioby for inspiration, then take a look around your own community—how could your neighbors benefit from your own project to boost health through art? 

Art In The Garden 2019

Started in Pittsburgh by the OMA Center for Mind Body Spirit, Art in the Garden is a program that teaches young people social and emotional skills with a wide variety of art forms. engages youth in a wide variety of art forms to develop social and emotional skills. Through performance workshops, participants work on compassion, emotional regulation, and self-esteem. Kids also gain an understanding of resilience and building for success through activites like reading together and throwing ceramics. They meet regularly in the OMA’s beautiful community garden where they can enjoy the outdoors, and learn about ecology directly from the earth. 

ioby Pittsburgh

The big picture around Art in the Garden is that exposure to these kinds of art therapy ideas  helps kids access and express their emotions in a healthy way, manage anxiety and depression, perform well in school, and  experience the joy of creativity. Interested in starting an art therapy project in your local community garden? Get some expert tips from from Jamie Young in Memphis.

Art Palace on Wheels

Kings and Queen Arts in Cleveland is a non-profit collective focused on bringing art and art therapy to neighbors, with an emphasis on prisoner re-entry. While they’re no longer based out of the original Art Palace, their ioby project raised funds for a van for artists to bring supplies and customized curriculums to clients they serve. 

Their mission is to offer the benefits of art therapy in places like the Community Based Correctional Facility, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center, and the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center, where participants  access the emotional, spiritual, and mental growth of making art and expressing themselves. Through these projects, people who’ve experienced trauma or faced other challenges have the opportunity to heal, build self-knowledge, and regain confidence. 

Empathy Through Art

When people get to know each other’s stories, it makes it a lot easier to come together and make all kinds of change.. That’s the vision behind Empathy Through Art, based in Raleigh, NC. Empathy Through Art’s first ioby project delves into the experience of living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the impact that experience can leave on greater communities. 

Empathy Through Art collects artists to make work on a range of societal issues, and together they showcase new insights and understandings with the community. The shows are documented by the organization to highlight the important role of art therapy and creative expression as a form of healing, and to inspire empathy and action by other members of a community. For this particular art showcase, funds from ticket sales will go to Dementia Alliance for NC, which provides education, research, and resources for caregivers and people living with dementia. 

Sew Much Love

The Sew Much Love project in North Memphis is an art therapy project that combines crafting with marketing and business savvy so women living in homeless shelters can work toward financial independence. Sew Much Love provides free lunch, mentorship, and brings local artists to teach new creative skills—from doll making to sewing quilts.

When Sew Much Love participants have created created crafts to sell, they get a crash course in marketing, financial management, and social media to sell their work. The experience of crafting can offer a sense of control and emotional healing, but also allows women in the shelter to gain the skills to provide for themselves and see the value of the work they create. 

My Art. My Passion. My Purpose. Conference

Leaders of this Cleveland-based art therapy project are well aware of the enormous benefits of practicing art and being supported as an artist. The My Art. My Passion. My Purpose. Conference gives young artists the opportunity to get to know fellow artists, learn from established artists, meet with mentors, and expand their artistic skills. 

The project seeks to empower kids and teens to express themselves through art and to follow their artistic ambitions. But they don’t stop there — the conference also provides parents with resources to support their young artists with classes and more learning opportunities. As an organization, My Art. My Passion. My Purpose promotes art as an important tool for bridging cultures and communities.

However you do it, there’s lots of good to get done with art therapy. Art is a powerful tool to make change, and it can also boost your community’s health and encourage healing.

Ready to start your own project that engages your neighborhood in creative healing? Check out ioby’s Artists Lead! Match Program to see if your project qualifies. You could double your crowdfunded dollars up to $15,000, and get one-on-one support to give your campaign extra oomph!

ioby is a national crowdfunding nonprofit, but we’re much more than that. Our crowdfunding platform helps connect leaders (like you!) with one-on-one coaching and support to raise the money they need from their communities to make our neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable, and more fun. 

Have a great idea to get good done in your neighborhood? We want to help! Share your idea with us and we can help get you started.