Richland Library Artist-in-Residence, Art Therapist Mary How, has been working with the community to bring awareness to the importance of mental health and mindfulness.
We recently partnered with NAMI Mid-Carolina to bring a Mandala Chalk Fest to the Richland Library community. Arts Coordinator, Ashley Warthen, and I facilitated this creative and healing event where participants were invited to reserve a circle on Richland Library Main's outdoor patio to create mandalas.
During my art residency, my intention has been to bring healing to library customers and our community through art therapy. I primarily do this by teaching mindfulness skills and mandala making. The mandala is a tool I use for personal healing and growth as an artist and in the work I do as an art therapist. While at the library, programs I've offered have included recycled and collaborative mandala making, bookmaking, mindfulness and mandalas meditation sessions and mindfulness and intuition for grief and loss with customers of all ages.
The Mandala Chalk Fest was one of my favorite experiences during my artist in residence at the library because of the sweetness of a shared healing experience that was pretty magical.
If you are wondering what mandala means, it’s a classical Indian Sanskrit word meaning sacred or magic circle. A Universal symbol for balance and wholeness, the meanings are vast, and include infinity, eternity, totality, life and centering. These circles have been used throughout time for healing and growth. They are frequently used by art therapists to guide clients and are a helpful tool for teaching and practicing mindfulness, a critical set of skills to effectively manage mental health. Combining art making and mindfulness allows us to increase our understanding and practical application of mindfulness skills.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we invited NAMI Mid-Carolina to join us for the event to increase awareness of services and support available for individuals and families coping with mental illness in our community. NAMI Mid-Carolina offers free services to community members. During the event, executive director Zenethia Brown provided an important presence and offered support and educational materials to participants.
Throughout the event, we heard so many stories of personal challenges, conversations with customers about fighting depression during COVID and folks experiencing overwhelming grief, but who showed up anyway, to practice mindfulness through the process of creating mandalas. Customers spoke about dealing with divorce, physical disability, parenting neuro-diverse children, living with autism, and using art as a form of self-expression.
One participant, Elizabeth Loftin, told us she saw us promoting the event on Soda City Live the day before. Seeing us inspired her to get out of bed and come create a mandala with us. Here’s what Elizabeth had to say:
What a rich, beautiful and peace filled experience! To say I left the library feeling joyful and fulfilled is an understatement. The Mandala Chalk Fest took art therapy to a whole new level of spiritual and emotional healing. I am currently in trauma therapy and this single experience fostered hope and courage in me, to move forward in my healing journey. I am so happy to say, art therapy will now be a permanent and vital part of my trauma therapy! Thank you, Mary How and Richland Library for this truly life changing day!
For more information about Mary How, please visit www.maryhow.com
To learn more about Richland Library's Art Initiatives and the Artist-in-Residence Program or to apply, visit www.richlandlibrary.com/art