Art aimed at improving mental health - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Art aimed at improving mental health

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"John" "John"
Bryant Pugh Bryant Pugh
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Friday, this HowardCenter patient, who we'll call "John" at the request of his care providers, is brushing up on his new hobby.

"Basically what I'm doing is drawing a tree here, nice big line here and part of a trunk here," John said. "Paintings I just find nice."

"When you start making art, the mental illness takes a break; something else takes over," said Bryant Pugh, John's residential counselor from the HowardCenter.

Pugh struggles with anxiety and depression. He found painting helped and has been introducing clients to it as part of their therapy.

"I've seen John open up so much since he started painting with me, when I've seen him draw more focus to the attention to detail in his paintings than I ever have in any other activity that he has done," Pugh said.

HowardCenter staff and client work will be on display at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington. The exhibit opening is Sunday, 3-5 p.m., but the work will remain up through the end of July.

"To open up that door, for someone to walk into a room and see this art, whether it was created from something that was painful or a good experience or it's a healing experience, it's something that really just opens up their life," Pugh said.

It only takes John a couple of minutes before he declares his second-ever piece finished-- a dramatic shift from his first abstract work entitled "Ocean." Blues and greens represent the sea, a block of orange the sun.

"What I'd like to do is take a course in learning how to paint, so I can do better paintings. That's what I want to do," John said.

Like any artist, he's not content with good enough.

About 60 works are expected to be on display, including paintings and photographs.

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