My Applied Project, much like my Research Article, involves stress and its intensity in the real world. Everyone lives with stress and goes through stressors during life. Because of this, I wanted to create something that can leave people thinking less about the stresses in their lives, and more about the wonderful things in life that they should be enjoying. My incorporation of art and therapy were vital in this project, as I found that the use of this can help significantly reduce the stress that someone is feeling by using art as a creative outlet. This method, although still new in the world, has begun to prove that art and therapies can significantly reduce the levels of stress in not only regular people, but also those with disabilities, as I discuss in my Research Article.
My Paint Night could have taken place at any time, as the stresses of everyday college life can be utilized for this study. I truly felt as though creating this event during the extra-stressful time of finals week, however, would benefit my study much more. I also chose college students for my event, because I can relate to them, understand their worries and frustrations, and detail their mental states easier than that of a middle-aged man or small child. This event was free to all students, but my event was mainly Seniors, with one Junior joining. This, in a way, was also helpful because I was able to relate to them even more, understanding the extreme stress of the upcoming graduation and the scary feelings of leaving school.
I had a total of 7 participants, most were roommates or friends, so they were grouped off pretty comfortably. I had the tables set up in sets of two, but close enough together that the students didn’t feel as though they were in groups, but instead in a large class setting. I positioned myself in the front, displaying my work as I went, allowing the students to ask questions and move as freely as they wished. All of the participants appeared comfortable in their setting and were also comfortable asking questions and giving feedback.
Because this was my first time teaching a class this age, I myself was very nervous. My main goal was to give everyone the opportunity to express themselves freely without judgement. I considered this a very important aspect to my study. I also decided not to post the “end result” or a finished piece during the duration of the event. This was a conscious choice that ended up working out for the better. I wondered if I had put up a finished piece, if the participants would feel extra pressure to make their work based off that, or that they would feel discouraged if their work didn’t look exactly like that one. I mentioned this to the class, and they all agreed that they felt more free to express and do what was they felt fit their painting better without a finished piece. This was a bit more difficult teaching-wise, because if a participant asked what exact colour might have been needed, I was unable to show/ explain to them what the painting in my example called for. I was able to make up for that by mixing my own colors with them, showing them that it could be whatever color they felt like mixing, since this is not a rigid class.
Studies like mine usually require some sort of evidence that states whether or not the hypothesis is correct. In this case, my hypothesis was correct when asking, would a Paint Night reduce stress in college students during finals week? In order to properly record my study, I provided a brief survey for before and after the event. The first survey had three questions, each giving the participant the opportunity to rate their thought on a 1 to 3 scale. In this case, one is low, and 3 is high. The surveys were completely anonymous, and randomized so I don’t know who answered for what. The overall census of the first question: “From a scale of 1 to 3, how stressed have you been feeling lately?” two students answered a 3, 2 students answered a 2, and 3 students answered a 1. This meant that the majority of my class had been feeling some sort of stress during exams. For the second question, “From a scale of 1 to 3, how much do you enjoy making art, writing, or music?” all participants either answered a 2 or a 3. This being said, all participants enjoyed these outlets. The final question, “When you find yourself stressed, do you use a positive outlet to let it out?” consisted of 5 participants circling the 3, and 2 circling the 2. I had provided examples of these outlets so there wasn’t any miscommunication, such as working out, walking, sharing with friends. This meant that my class was not only stressed, but capable of coping with this stress. This should be typical when looking at a class of 95% seniors who are used to this time of year.
Once everyone was finished with the event, I provided another brief survey. This consisted of 3 more questions, also scaling from 1 to 3, with each student labelling their emotions as calmer and less stressed. The first question was, “What is your level of stress after the paint session?” Each student marked a 1 for this question. This is the most important record I have for this study, as it shows that moving from most of the participants being a 2 or higher moving down to a 1 after this session. The second question, “How well do you think this event had helped relieve (any) stress?” left every student marking either a 2 or a 3. As someone who has never taught a class like this before, this was pleasing to me. I wanted to make sure that my participants felt comfortable in this space and felt some relief during this session. The final question was also important for this study. The question, “How much would you consider this event a positive outlet during a stressful time?” questioned not only the participant’s personal experience during the session, but that of sessions for others, and the use of this for many other events. Every participant answered a 3. This finding states that my hypothesis is correct, and this event was a complete success.
In order to make this event possible, I needed to communicate with several aspects of Plymouth State University. First, I needed to develop a time and place to have this event happen. I thought that the Museum of the White Mountains would be perfect for this event, as similar events have happened there in the past, and I have a great relationship with the staff there. The next step was gathering materials. The Student Support Foundation was able to provide me with all materials for this event, including canvases, brushes, and paint. Without the SFF, I would not have been able to provide free materials for the students, leaving them to bring their own or pay to get in, which would have severely kept them from coming and enjoying the event more. Another important aspect was that of the Plymouth State University Class of 2019 Facebook Group. I posted about the event the morning of and got feedback in the hours following. Without this post, I honestly don’t think anyone would have come. If I had worked harder to advertise this event, I feel as though more people would’ve come, and perhaps more from other classes. Because of this, I missed out on a larger scale of surveys, but got to work more intimately with a smaller class. Overall, I am happy with how the event turned out, and everyone who participated were proud of their work.
*All images are taken by me and with the participants’ permission to post