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Student art vendors discuss stress relief, empowerment in creating

Oxford Sophomore Abby Pappas sits with her artwork on Nov. 12 in Finch Field House.

Illinois sophomore Kelli Nielsen developed a passion for painting after experiencing breakup a year and a half ago.

She said painting was a way for for her to express her emotions and to spend time focusing on herself and her own needs. 

Now, painting is a piece of herself she can share with others. Nielsen was one of several artists who experienced personal enrichment through their craft and have shared their work with others, offering their pieces up for sale, during "Art in the Heart: An Inclusive Art Festival" Nov. 12 at Finch Fieldhouse.

Oxford sophomore Abby Pappas finds her often-psychedelic artwork originates from “experimenting with what (her) brain can come up with.”

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Her work often incorporates aliens, eyeballs and surreal situations. One painting for sale showcased a vine-wrapped hand with an eyeball on the palm and severed fingers—in outer space. 

“I like stuff that’s out there, rather than the normal,” Pappas said.

Pappas described art as a relaxing pursuit.

Paintings by Oxford Sophomore Abby Pappas sits on Nov 12 in Finch Field House.

“(Painting relieves my) my head of so much thinking,” she said. “I don’t really think when I paint.”

Midland senior Emily Swierzbin said art has always been a major part of her life and was a passion that developed when she was just a toddler.

As she’s grown older, art has become a way to express the more mature ideas and emotions experienced by adults. 

Last year at a student-juried art exhibition, Swierzbin displayed a piece called “Dear Trump”—a 22 by 30-inch print with a girl’s face in the middle and words along the edge reading, “Keep your hands off my pussy.”

A middle-aged woman with her husband and young adult daughters came up to Swierzbin after the exhibition, asking if she was the artist behind “Dear Trump.” The woman asked to give her a hug and thanked her. 

Swierzbin said the woman's family wanted to hug her and shake her hand, saying they were grateful she had the “guts” to say what’s been on many people’s minds.

“That’s why I’m doing it,” Swierzbin said. “As much as (my art) is for me, it is also for other people—to identify with, or even to question.”

Beyond being a political outlet, art has helped Swierzbin stay healthy emotionally.

“It’s my way of getting my thoughts and feelings out into the world because I’m a really emotional person,” Swierzbin said. “(Art) helps me channel that and put it into something productive."

Traverse City junior Jordan McNamara found a stress-relieving tool in her wire-wrapping work.

McNamara had always been interested in wire-wrapping but never got around to it—until she took up the time to develop the skill about six months ago to raise money to study abroad.

Now, she said it’s a way she can be productive in her free time, instead of scrolling social media, and that it’s a way she can cool off when she grows too stressed.

“(Art helps me) get away from the world,” McNamara said. “Clear my mind and take it out on something positive and creative.”

For McNamara and the other student art vendors, art has given them a way to cope with the stress and difficulties of college life.

So many student artists share this sentiment that the CMU Counseling Center has begun to offer an "Art & Creativity" group workshop every Wednesday. The workshop takes place from 3:30 - 5 p.m. at the Counseling Center.