More than a Pretty Painting

September article for Stroll Magazine

Words by: Stacy Vermylen




Art is a very special part of the Naples experience, with wonderful galleries, superb art shows, classes at Naples art, and the talented artists and studios of the Naples Art District. Many people might not realize that the creation of art has an even more important role than adorning our homes or filling our museums—it provides a valuable role in addressing the emotional needs of both adults and children as a kind of “therapy”.


Utilization of therapy through art is a well-established approach to addressing issues such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, grief and loss, anxiety, everyday stress, and depression.  Art therapy started as a recognized practice in the middle of the twentieth century, when psychiatric facilities started using art experiences to help patients express their thoughts and worries.  However, it could be argued that most art through the ages was used by the artists to communicate something deeper than just the creation of a beautiful object; the churches of Europe are full of masterpieces that express faith, hope and fears of the artists.  


In Naples, art therapy is being used at senior centers, schools, and as part of mental health facilities like the David Lawrence Center to help soothe and calm “artist-patients”.  Children who have difficulty expressing their angst are often asked to draw to help illuminate their problems as well as soothe themselves. Leading universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs in art therapy and art therapists are certified in the field by the state to practice. 


The value of art as a form of therapy is far more than a technique used by health professionals. When you ask practicing artists, like contemporary artist John Carroll Long, many echo John’s thoughts that “every piece is a kind of art therapy, providing a way for me to communicate beliefs, fears, needs, love, and hopes.” Artisans at the Artisan Marketplace, held at the Naples Woman’s Club in early November, include many who turned to creating some object of art to find pleasure and comfort. Stressed out business executives, too, report feeling that creating art (no matter how good or bad) relaxes them and helps soothe nerves created by their busy lives. Often there is a surprising amount of latent talent, as evidenced by the work of former president George W. Bush, who started painting to relax and to honor veterans, the subject of many of his portraits. He also wanted to prove that at 70 he could learn something new, an inspiration to many!


In these stressful times, all of us could benefit from some form of art therapy—whether it might be learning to paint, writing, creating music, jewelry, pottery, or any form of the fine arts…and Naples Art and the Naples Art district programs provide many opportunities to apply stress reducing benefits of creating something! Try it yourself and you might even find your inner Rembrandt!