Creative Expression and Well-Being Among Undergraduate Students
In the spring of 2023, Researchers Sofia Pineda-Velez, Jasmin Storer, Grace Chavez and Sam Searfoss conducted a qualitative, human-based research study. The research was in collaboration with the Arts Education Partnership, the Leadership Department at the University of Denver, and the Institutional Review Board. This project, named Creative Expression for Mental Health: Arts-Education Integration Research, aimed to showcase student opinions on the interconnectivity between creative expression (arts), mental wellbeing and the university setting. Each researcher interviewed or shadowed at least two undergraduate students, one being a fine-arts major and the other being a non-fine arts major, to accumulate diverse perspectives on arts as it pertains to their experiences. This blog series aims to summarize those findings, specifically the impacts and factors of art that illuminate areas of improvement as it pertains to arts education and university students’ wellbeing.
With this research, it is important to define what constitutes as “art” because the definition of art can be interpreted in different ways. Overwhelmingly, our research shows that anything that allows a person to truly express themselves without restrictions can be considered art. Additionally, some interviewees explained that art is an experience that allows for cross-cultural learning and engagement. However, it is worth noting that a few interviewees gave examples on things they do not deem to be art, which included math, science, sports, stolen art, and propaganda, because those are restrictive or project disingenuous motives. For the purpose of this research, we considered anything art; therefore, we interviewed individuals that partake in a wide array of art media including window drawing, dancing, wood working, music composition and many others.
The main themes brought up in many interviews which will be explored further in this series are the impacts art has on people — notably students. Our research shows that art has provided positive impacts on the interviewees’ mental wellbeing and has been a point of reflection for them. However, our research also shows that the impacts of art can be complex. This series will go in-depth into the vulnerability that accompanies art, perfectionism, internalized criticism and the taxing efforts behind art. Furthermore, we will discuss different ways in which art can either be shared or hidden from others and the implications behind these decisions. Other less-discussed topics such as discrimination will also be a key point in this blog series. Finally, a consistent theme throughout these posts will be the barrier of entry to the arts in the university setting. The goal behind this research is not to deter arts educators but instead provide transparency surrounding the true experiences students have with the arts which, hopefully, will lead to better approaches to arts education in the future.
Be sure to check back in the following weeks for more posts in this series.
This blog series is a summary of qualitative research study, Creative Expression and Well-Being Among Undergraduate Students, conducted at the University of Denver by undergraduate students Sofia Pineda-Velez, Jasmin Storer, Grace Chavez and Sam Searfoss through the Leadership department with the Colorado Women’s College Leadership Scholars. The study investigated arts-based education in the university setting through student interviews and the relationship between creative expression and mental well-being.