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“I love talking about the intersection of arts and mental health because I get to see how powerful that can be everyday.” –Kristin Schneider 

On July 29, ArtsFund and Sound hosted The Healing Power of Arts, a free public event centered around the relationship between arts and mental health, moderated by Sound President & CEO, ArtsFund Trustee, and former practicing therapist Patrick Evans. 

Michael Greer, ArtsFund President & CEO, put the evening in context by welcoming guests emphasizing the importance of the conversation. Studies conducted during the pandemic revealed that nearly half of Americans believe the pandemic harmed their mental health. As leaders seek to maintain the wellness and mental health of our community, research shows the arts are an effective tool in reducing depression and anxiety, improving outcomes for children, and increasing life satisfaction. 

Following introductions, panelist Aaron Walker-Loud, Director of Big World Breaks and an Arts Corps Teaching Artist, led attendees through an interactive rhythm activity. Having grown up in Seattle’s Central District, Walker-Loud cited legendary jazz teachers Robert Knatt and Clarence Acox as being central to his development as a musician and a person. Walker-Loud drew a line from the origins of American jazz in the gospel and blues traditions of enslaved people, to students who learn and benefit from jazz music today.  

“The core of gospel and blues [music] is really about how people use their creativity to emotionally, spiritually, and culturally survive the worst conditions we could even imagine, that most of us will never come close to experiencing.” –Aaron Walker-Loud 

Evans invited the remaining panelists to describe how their work intersects with arts and mental health.  Kristin Schneider, MT-BC, Director of Music Therapy at both Music Center of the Northwest and Music Works Northwest, explained how she works with neurodivergent individuals and uses music as a tool to advance different clinical goals involving academic skills, motor skills, self-expression, coping strategies, and more. Ashyln Graff, MS, LMHCA, AAC, NCC, an Adult Services Clinician at Sound, integrates art into each of her therapeutic groups. Janine Boyer, a visual artist, Alumni Participant Artist, and Creative Mentor at Path with Artspoke about her personal journey in recovery from mental illness through the arts.  

“For both me and the clients, the [Sound] art group elicits a sense of connection to the self and to others during a very lonely time. It facilitates healing and provides time for processing and mindfulness. It makes me so happy to see our clients giving each other support.” –Ashlyn Graff  

Over the course of the event, each of the panelists fielded questions and provided their unique perspective on topics such as what makes arts engagement so effective when it comes to advancing positive health outcomes, how art helped through the isolation of the pandemic, strategies for further integrating arts in youth education, and more.  

“During the pandemic, I heard from Path with Art students that the program brought them great joy and confidence in themselves through the Zoom platform. It is a beautiful thing to watch how others benefitted from the Path with Art program not only during the pandemic, but over the years.” –Janine Boyer 

Thanks to each of our panelists, to Patrick Evans and Sound for making this event possible, and to everyone who attended and took part in the conversation. 

Click here to watch the event recording.

Click here to read ArtsFund’s Social Impact Study.

Click here to read Patrick Evan’s blog post for ArtsFund about mental health. 

Thank you to Sound for supporting this event.