Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is an amazing experience. Every day is a new day, full of wonder, adventure, creativity and imagination. Without hesitation, they draw, make music, sing, dance, tell stories … oh, so many wonderful stories. Paints, crayons, blocks, food, nature and thoughts all become part of the playground for exploration and fun. This creativity, imagination and self-expression helps children develop a sense of self-assurance and confidence.

The seeds of creativity and a strong imagination live in each and every one of us. When creative expression is nurtured and encouraged, thoughts and feelings are easily communicated; whether it be through spoken words, visual art or body language and movement.

However, as we get older, our willingness and ability to let our imagination run wild often switches off due to self-censorship. Insecurities and self-doubt overshadow our desire to simply create. The focus shifts from exploring what’s inside us and around us to worrying about possible judgment and conforming to accepted societal norms.
We suppress our inner creative spirit. We begin listening to the millions of reasons of why we “shouldn’t” or “can’t” be an artist instead of believing in our ability to bring originality and beauty into the world.

It’s important to keep art and creative expression as priorities throughout life because the power of creativity lies far beyond the finished product. The magic lives in the ability to share and express ourselves in a tangible way. It offers an outlet to let loose and release our inner-most thoughts and feelings and promotes mental wellness.
Art and creative expression provide opportunities to reflect, build understanding and empathy and assist with problem-solving by encouraging outside-of-the box thinking. It’s also a universal language that can help connect us through finding common ground.

As Jana Marie Foundation has discovered many times, no matter the form, creative expression provides hope. The Stompers Project is just one example. This unique community project breaks down the stereotypes and myths that surround mental and emotional well-being through the use of art.

Community members come together to learn, share stories, connect and paint deconstructed sneakers that then are assembled into beautiful art, a Stomper statue. “I never knew others felt this way too,” a middle school participant said after one session. “I now know I’m not alone.”

What powerful statements of hope and healing.

So, let’s learn from our children and turn off our inner voices of self-censorship and judgment. Let’s set our creative spirits free and find peace, happiness and connections by exploring new forms of creative expression.

Grab a sketch pad and draw. Turn up the music and dance. Write a poem. Engage in a conversation. Capture moments through photography. Tell a story. Participate in an upcoming Jana Marie Foundation event.
Whatever you choose, allow yourself to create, build and share. Not only will you reap the benefits of enhanced mental and emotional well-being, but you also will help make the world a better place.

This article written by Marisa Vicere was originally published in the Centre Daily Times on February 27, 2017.