A Soothing Space

Creativity Suite offers outlets to students


Photo by Marina J. Powell

Onyx Steele, sophomore, takes time in the Creativity Suite to sweetly create.

Marina J. Powell, Assistant Editor

The Creativity Suite, a small art studio, is available for student use and is located in the basement of Roberts.

The room features painting supplies, sketching tools, stickers, clay and molding supplies, and a wide range of glue and accessories. Students are invited to come during the hours of 9 am to 8 pm and take a moment to breathe and create art in the middle of a stressful day.

For Raegan Hall, sophomore, the Suite is a place to go to unwind in between classes.

“I’m an AG Major, I’m not an artist. Sometimes articulating in words the thing you’re feeling doesn’t work. When this started becoming a legit space… it was like, ‘ok great, so I actually have an outlet now,'” Hall said.

Hall uses the room almost daily as a place to de-stress and have fun with art. Even though she has a home studio, an on-campus location provides a lot of flexibility and a place to take a quick break instead of going all the way home.

She is often joined by Onyx Steele, another sophomore and frequent visitor to the Suite.

“STEM majors need a bit of a break,” Steele explained.

Both students also appreciated the relocation of the area, which recently moved into Roberts Hall.

“It was very small, and they didn’t have the same kind of supplies…just where it is on campus alone is so much better because you don’t have to walk over to Basset,” Hall recounted.

Steele agreed, explaining that the move made it much easier to get into the building, and that it’s much more useful because Roberts is a more central location.

Lee-Ann O’Dell, coordinator of outreach and programming, began the Creativity Suite shortly after her arrival at Ferrum and has seen it slowly grow into something bigger.

“I did a research project, and I looked at student counseling centers and best practices, and emotional regulation. Mindfulness and expressive arts therapy were the two things that bubbled up. So we created and launched the Creativity Suite at the very end of the semester in 2021,” O’Dell explained.

She also said that art can be a tool to help manage unstable emotions and worrisome situations in everyday life.

“Self-soothing can happen in a number of ways productively and counter-productively. Art is a self-soothing activity. It helps regulate our emotions and takes us out of whatever we’re dealing with, because when we’re creating something new, we have to give it all of our focus,” O’Dell said, “Mindfulness and creativity, they are ways of creating space in our brain. When we’re out in the world, things happen–there’s a stimulus. We can either respond, or we can react. And most of the time if we don’t have a break, if we don’t have that space in our head, we react.”

Self-soothing activities give the mind a chance to respond, instead of simply reacting. Expressing one’s feelings via physical art is called “Expressive Art Therapy” and can include using music, dance, or visual art to work through thoughts and feelings.

“Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change,” said the American Psychological Association,

O’Dell’s vision is to see both the Creativity and Mindfulness programs grow as more students grow aware of the benefits. While many do not need one-on-one therapy, coming to a quiet place to relax for a moment can be beneficial.

“I would really like to continue to grow that population of students who understand that they can come. I can do one-on-one restorative yoga with them, I can do one-on-one meditation coaching. There’s more here than just creativity,” O’Dell explained.

Whether to unwind, have fun, or both, students can access the Creativity Suite during the day for a soothing moment in an otherwise stressful week or day.