How taking art-based courses can help reduce stress

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Miina McCown/ The Broadside

The pandemic is still affecting almost every aspect of the way everyone lives, including social interactions and academics. Stress is also a large influence of the current global conditions. Central Oregon Community College offers a wide range of visual arts and music courses that students can participate in to help relieve stress while earning credits.

One study conducted for the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association shows that no matter the artistic experience of participants, about 75 percent of them experienced a decrease in cortisol levels, a neurotransmitter that the body releases in response to stress after participating in a creative art making activity.

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That said, it is beneficial to choose from a variety of creative activities and as long as they let one express themself. Doing these activities can help improve one’s mood and deal with stress in a healthy way.

Michael Gesme, chair of the Fine Arts and Communication Department and professor of music at COCC, believes that musical and artistic expression can play a large hand in benefitting one’s mental health.

“While I am not an expert in the science behind how playing a musical instrument, throwing a pot or painting on a canvas relieves stress, I know that engaging in the arts of any kind can have a profound impact on one’s mental and physical health,” Gesme said.

“I see it in others, and I experience it myself. Escaping to the artistic zone, whether in a classroom, in a rehearsal, or alone, allows one to disengage from the pressing worries of the world, if but only briefly, and focus on the art of creation. These moments allow your body much needed time to relax and recharge, a mental (and physical) detox if you will, that lowers stress levels and realigns that which is being bent out of shape by the burdens we carry.”

No matter the area of artistic interest, COCC likely has the course specializing in it. While there are traditional visual arts classes such as Drawing I (ART 131) and Painting I (ART 181), there are also classes that cover Metalwork and Jewelry Hot Fabrication (ART 157A1), Sculpture (ART 191) and Printmaking (ART 270).

If students are more interested in musical expression rather than the visual arts, there also are courses available focusing on many areas of music. There are a wide range of group performance courses including Jazz Improvisation (MUS 161) and Vocal Ensemble (MUP 114) as well as individual learning including Piano Class I (MUS 131) and Guitar Class I (MUS 137).

If someone is new to arts-based classes and feel that they are stepping out of their comfort zone, there are plenty of introduction classes available such as Music Fundamentals (MUS 101) and Introduction to Graphic Design (ART 110). These courses can help explore creative expression no matter someone’s confidence level or ability. If one is not interested in art or music at all, there are alternatives for creativity in writing courses as well focusing on creative or script writing.

Bill Cravis, the associated professor of 3D fine arts thinks that although art courses can help relieve stress, it should also be taken seriously as an academic subject.

“When introducing themselves to the class during the first week of classes, many students reveal that all of their academic classes are difficult and demanding, so they’ve registered for an art class in order to relieve stress or ‘have fun.’ I certainly hope that my classes are enjoyable, inspiring, and educational — but I must assert that art making is a serious endeavor that requires dedication, discipline and self-motivation… I truly hope that students will benefit from taking art classes during the time of COVID and beyond,” Cravis said.

 

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