Duquesne students create positive environments in art

Courtesy of Hannah Clark. Clark performing one of her ballroom dances. She has been using dancing as a way to relax her body after long days of work.

Molly Chapman | staff writer

Oct. 14, 2021

The creative arts can be experienced in various ways. Some may sing, some may dance, some may write, draw, paint or act. Whichever way students express their talents, these extracurriculars also stand as a foundation for positive self-care in terms of mental health. The Duke interviewed five Duquesne students who use their hobbies as a creative outlet for their health and well-being.

Caelyn Kim — voice performance 

Playing and listening to music is a very popular way to relax after a long day, and for freshman pharmacy major Caelyn Kim, music is an escape. 

Kim has been singing since she was young, and “it always had this profound ability to make me feel so much lighter,” she said. 

A member of Duquesne’s Pappert Mixed ensemble, Kim enjoys her time rehearsing in choir and on her own.

According to Kim, there are many factors that can lead to stress — schoolwork, jobs, social encounters — but with music, the stressor “suddenly doesn’t matter.”

“It has a big influence on how I feel,” Kim said. 

In addition to affecting her mood, she feels that music can help determine her efficiency. 

“I get more work done when I’m listening to the right kind of music,” she said.

But in her life, music has had an impact on more than just a single moment’s mentality. 

“I used to have difficulty socializing, and never understood other kids,” Kim said. “When I got into the arts, though, suddenly I was surrounded by people who had a lot of the same interests as me and were willing to help me become the person I am now.” 

Kim describes herself now as a person willing to take risks, and says her life is “far better than it would have been [without music].” 

For Kim, music is the way to wind down after a long day, the way to get herself into the right state of mind for whatever the next task is and to make all the problems in the world disappear. 

Hannah Clark — ballroom dancer 

“My relationship with ballroom dancing is very positive. It has given me some of the best and worst experiences, and every single one has helped me get through my life and meet some of the best people in it.” 

Sophomore Duquesne Ballroom Association President Hannah Clark’s relationship with ballroom dancing may be, as she described, “complicated,” but it has given her the highest of highs and gotten her out of her lowest of lows. 

“It’s always there when I’m feeling down or need to get things off my mind,” Clark said. 

She also opened up about some of her struggles with anxiety, and how dancing helps her overcome it. 

“It gives me a time to take a break or just relax my body from stress and anxiety that I face daily,” Clark said. “Being able to dance and perform with a positive group of people supporting you is the best feeling.”

Another impact that dance has made on her life is improving her connection with other people. 

“It strengthened many of my relationships, since I tend to dance with my friends, family and boyfriend,” Clark said.

According to Clark, she knows that her mental health has been affected greatly by the influence of dancing. 

“It gives me things to destress with, people I do not feel anxious around and it helps me gain confidence in myself.”

Kaitlin Dodd & Natalie Jepsky — Painter Society Co-Presidents 

Many people’s first thought when given the term “creative outlet” may be painting, as it is a type of art we see and hear of nearly every day. Painter’s Society Co-President Kaitlin Dodd harnesses the canvas, brushes and paints to ease her mind and take care of her mental health.

“Painting is a great stress reliever,” Dodd said. “I love that I’m free to create whatever I want and it doesn’t matter if it’s ‘good’ or not.” 

Many people’s biggest worries about joining creative activities is not being good at it, whether it is acting, drawing, playing music, dancing, writing, or painting, but Dodd explains that a person’s perception of the art as good or bad doesn’t matter as long as the artist is happy with the piece they created, and that everyone’s work is uniquely beautiful. 

“Knowing this takes a lot of pressure off trying to be good at something and allows everyone to just simply enjoy the relaxing effects of painting,” she said. 

To Dodd, having a Painters’ Society meeting on Thursday nights is “the perfect end to a long, stressful week.”

Painter’s Society Co-President senior Natalie Jepsky’s first encounter with art was scribbling and drawing when she was younger. 

Through elementary and middle school, art classes were still a staple in the curriculum, but in high school, she had to give up art classes for other required courses. 

“When I heard about the Painter’s Society at the expo [my] freshman year, I immediately joined because I thought it would be good to have a creative outlet again,” Jepsky said. 

“What I like most about painting is that nothing has to be perfect when you create it,” she said. “It’s your own and uniquely yours.” 

In regard to her mental health, she explained that being in the club allows her to relax. 

“Painting has reduced my stress and improved my mood even after a rough week,” she said.

For Jepsky, painting forged new connections, gave her a new creative outlet and helped her relieve the stress of day-to-day life.

Becca Liddle — Poetry writer 

When junior education major Becca Liddle’s mental health hit one of its lowest points about a year ago, she said she turned to poetry to bring her back up and has been writing ever since. 

“I signed up for a poetry workshop and really enjoyed it,” she said, explaining her beginnings in poetry. “I found myself writing more and more for fun and as a means of de-stressing.”

“I never thought I had any passions until I started writing,” Liddle said. “I used to think you had to be good at something to like it, but any poetry is good poetry and that’s one of the most beautiful things about it; there’s no wrong way to do it. It just has to make you feel something.” 

When Liddle began writing, she felt like no one understood what she was experiencing, or no one could put it into words.

“Finding new ways to put into words what I’m feeling helps center me and allows my mind to go back to a place of productivity and positivity and continue on with my day,” she explained. 

Liddle said that writing allows her to disconnect from reality for a while. “It takes me away from whatever bad feelings I’m experiencing at the time, even if I’m writing about those bad feelings.”

“It’s humbling to have other people read what you write and say ‘I resonate with that and completely understand what you mean,’” she said. 

Liddle, who a year ago couldn’t find anyone with the right words, used poetry to find the words herself.