Art therapy takes artistic talent to a whole new level


Joel Beal, a fine arts student at CCC, works on a painting in his spare time.

Joel Beal, a fine arts student at CCC, works on a painting in his spare time.



Staff Writer

“You come to nature with all her theories, and she knocks them all flat.”

-Auguste Renoir. 


Art is prevalent on campus, and rightfully so. Almost everywhere you look you can find a piece of artwork done by one of the students who attend Cumberland County College. Whether the purpose is to persuade, inform, or to entertain people, there is no doubt that art flourishes on campus.

Why? What is the allure of artwork? Why do people choose it as a career? Why is art, in all of its forms, one of the most alluring means of expression? One of the most intriguing aspects of art is the therapeutic effect it has on both those who create it and those who view it.  

Joel Beal, a student at CCC who is majoring in art has always been interested in the creative process, and knows firsthand the therapeutic effect it can have on people.  After getting into a serious car accident, art became a vital outlet for his stress.  “I took the opportunity after my accident and operation to pick up some classes.  I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something. I’m getting bored sitting home, doing nothing.’”

Art as a form of therapy is based on the idea that the creative process involved in the creation of art helps individuals to resolve conflicts and problems, to reduce stress, and to achieve insight.  The process of creating art is a step-by-step procedure that forces the artist to plan and evaluate the task at hand.  It has the power to soothe while enabling a person to evaluate what is on the canvas and envision what lies beyond it.

It is also an ongoing learning experience.

“I’m trying to cover every medium possible,” Beal said. “When you master something you’ve got to keep going, you know?”

On a professional level, art therapy involves using nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often difficult to express in any other way.  In this way, people can discover underlying thoughts and feelings that are communicated in the artwork.  It can help them gain insight and achieve a better understanding of themselves by interpreting what the images and style mean.  

Art therapy can also help people to develop skills that would have otherwise remained dormant—and the medium is not just limited to painting. Sculpture, sketching, writing, photography, and video making are also among the artistic outlets that can help people maintain a reduced level of stress.  

For some, it can become a passion. It becomes less about having the title of “artist” and more about thoroughly enjoying the act of creating something.  It is evident in Beal’s case that his heart is in his work.  He has a wide variety of artwork, each with a different style and perspective, and each bearing particular attention to detail.  Better yet, he remains remarkably down-to-earth about his talent. 

“For me,” he said, “I just love to create. People are always saying that it’s so ‘noble’ of me. No. Does an art professor become an art professor because it’s noble? No. They want to take their talent and help people learn. This is exactly what I want to do.”

Art has the power to give people the opportunity to independently change their lives for the better. With art, they are not forced to depend primarily on medication in order to cope with traumatic events in their lives; they can create things, learn about themselves, and apply those lessons to their lives in order to make a dramatic difference. It is an eternal process, and can not only help the artist, but can also have a significant effect on those who view the finished product. 

It gives people a certain satisfaction to develop and share their views through art.  It is one of those things that has the ability to defy all expectations; with every new painting or sculpture, something novel is found that has not been seen before.  Giving people a way to be productive and to assert their control in their lives are just a few of the ways that art functions as a form of therapy.


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