I see that you are the founder and CEO of The Art Shine Foundation, or ASF. Could you tell us a little about that initiative and what it aims to do for the community?
Sure! My passion for artivism motivated me to create ASF, even though I had no prior experience starting or managing such a large organization. My goal was to create a global community of youth artists and provide them with opportunities to spark change through their artwork.
ASF’s overarching goal is to incite change, awareness, and positivity in the community. We include all art forms to promote diversity, interview/feature teen artists to highlight their incredible work, host art galleries to raise awareness for current issues, and hold fundraisers supporting the community. Together, the ASF community has been able to advocate for equality, facilitate open, constructive discussion, and positively impact lives.
Since last spring, our team has grown to 50+ youth artists representing 11 US states and 8 countries. We have curated a Black Lives Matter Gallery to advocate for racial equality, human rights, and inclusion; interviewed and featured teen artists around the world to amplify youth voices; raised over $1,000 for retirement homes in need, supporting 550+ senior citizens across 4 US states; and launched a FeminArt magazine with contributors hailing from US 18 states and 7 countries, raising awareness for gender equality and women’s rights through creative expression with 400+ views so far.
Do you believe that art therapy is effective in the long-run? Why or why not?
Yes, and I speak from experience. When I underwent knee surgery a few years ago, art was my only solace. Networking with artists, learning how to craft in all sorts of mediums, and wholeheartedly diving into the artistic world helped me overcome my pain and depression during such a difficult time. Another example is that I bonded with an artist online several years ago, and when I learned she was undergoing cancer treatment, I decided to send her some artwork to lift her spirits. It was when she told me the art comforted her immensely during a dark period of her life, that I realized the potential of art to empower others. Art can be used to express emotions without even having to speak and can be utilized to change peoples’ lives for the better.
Besides being therapeutic, how else do you believe art helps people psychologically?
I believe art has the ability to empower others, change perspectives, and transform lives. Art speaks to the soul and can have a profound impact on viewers. It can bring people together, bring people to tears, bring joy to people when they’re facing anguish, and bring hope to the hopeless, and I speak from experience!
I saw your art account. How long have you been doing art and what’s your favorite medium? Why? Furthermore, how has art helped YOU with your mental health?
I have been doing art for as long as I can remember. Though I’ve experimented with a plethora of mediums including, but not limited to, colored pencil, acrylics, felting, pastel, clay, etc. my favorite medium is still pencil on paper because of its simplicity and how you can create a world through just two tools. Art gives me a way to express myself, and especially during these tumultuous times, it has been vital in keeping me sane and helping me unwind.
What do you see ASF doing in the future?
We will be launching workshops in the near future to make arts education accessible for underserved high schoolers. Additionally, I hope to launch an art + mental health initiative afterwards and start chapters in other states or schools!
What are some self-care practices you would recommend someone do if they are struggling internally?
I think the most important aspect of self-care is doing things that make you happy. It could be cooking, creating artwork, composing music, playing board games, anything really, which you can put all your thoughts into and unwind. Taking some time to do at least one thing which gives you joy is vital in staying internally happy.
Why do you believe creative expression is important?
It wasn’t always easy to pursue the arts, especially when it seemed like no one I knew seemed interested in the same field. However, when I began my artivism endeavors, I realized two things: first, I could raise awareness for virtually any issue I was passionate about, and second, a lot of people appreciated my work and felt empowered by what they saw. I started to understand the power of visual arts, since I could spread any message I wanted to through creative expression. This has sparked my realization that creative expression has the potential to impact viewers and spread powerful messages, and why I believe that without creative expression, we would be stripped from the very thing that makes us human and gives us a voice.
Do you have any favorite mental health advocates? If so, who are they and how have they helped motivate you?
Yes! I follow several spoken word poets who do mental health advocacy through their poetry (since I also do the same), some of them being Prince EA and Jay Shetty. Their work inspires me to keep going through difficult times and stay positive even during adversity.
What does mental health mean to YOU?
To me, mental health means being satisfied with my own accomplishments regardless of outside circumstances (what others have achieved, stereotypes, etc.) I think maintaining a stable inner mindset despite things occurring which are outside of my control keeps my mental health intact. Though I’ve been struggling with doing that recently because of the pandemic, I remind myself that I’m strong and capable of getting through even the toughest situations.
Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?
I would just like to say thank you to Revive and all your readers! You are all amazing people and I want you to know that we’re in this together.