Audra Piernek: Art as Therapy During COVID-19

Audra Pieknik, Executive Director at the Art Experience has been using art as therapy to reach out and comfort the community during Covid-19

“The art experience is open to everyone. Covid has really changed the way our studio brings people together as a family. It’s just a new adventure, I guess I believe there are opportunities to develop stronger relationships in the community and a stronger organization to maximize our reach despite having to do things in a way. The studio has way less people and you have to wear a mask at all times and keep art materials sanitized and clean for customers. It was hard for me to adjust not being there for the community. It is hard not being able to see them because doing art virtually does not work for everyone. The biggest challenge that Covid-19 has brought is human interaction and to make people feel welcome.” She said

Audra Piernik staff has created online art classes. She is allowing her artists to work with clients virtually and has given art materials to Sprout, a local store in Pontiac, to give out art materials to the community. Art sessions start at $5.00 for appointments that need to be booked before coming to the studio, only ten people can be booked to come to the studio and the studio is only open on Saturdays.

“I have been working with the Kennedy School of children with special needs and disabilities during covid virtually, it really warms my heart even though some of them are lying in bed with a caregiver who does the art for them, they still seem very engaged and happy. The Art Experience has been working with the summer school program, now online, for the Kennedy Center School in Pontiac and plans to again supplement the curriculum in the school once the regular school year begins again. We’ve been doing this for the past 3 years, but the new way of living has made for some interesting pivots with technology, especially for the artists and art therapists who prefer an analog style of living. “ She said.

“Art is very therapeutic and Helps alleviate the production of stress hormones that puts people in survival mode. Over time this chronic stress starts taking its toll on other functions of the brain. Art making helps release the grip that those stress hormones have on our brains, and can help people in a rather accessible way alleviate stress and anxiety. Humans are resilient, and art making is one tool to keep in the toolkit… During Covid-19, there is so much chronic stress being caused from the virus, food insecurity, loss of jobs, racism, and many other things,” she said.

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