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“Thank you for believing in the power of art as healing.”

Those were the words uttered to an audience of more than 70 guests by Meredith Malkin, a Counseling and Psychological Services clinical staff member who helped organize the fourth annual Healing Art Exhibit Thursday night at UCF's counseling center.

The mission of the exhibit, a collaboration between CAPS and the School of Visual Arts and Design, is to inform the UCF community of CAPS’ services, decrease the stigma concerning mental health and promote creativity and healing. The exhibit showcased artwork from students, staff and alumni, along with live performances of classical guitar and spoken word.

Ranging from large scenic paintings to photography, all the pieces visually depicted what anxiety and depression feel like in one manner or another. This year’s theme for the exhibit, unity, was carefully selected by a CAPS committee to demonstrate how all the pieces of one's self, nature and cultures come together in harmony to form oneness through art.

One of the artists, Stacy Nale-Stadom, let the art take full control in creating her piece. “I got out of my artwork’s way and let it just be,” she wrote in her accompanying description of the piece. The process went through many changes of emotions but ended with “Oh wow. I love it.”

Some of the artists are accomplished professionals with their own studios and websites while others created their pieces as part of a class and have never had others view their work until then.

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Artist Kathleen Neylon submitted two pieces featuring cats, and one black and white drawn self-portrait with paint poured overhead. She said it was her first time ever producing something for display in a gallery. “I invited everyone I know,” she exclaimed, laughing.

The associate director of outreach for CAPS, Teresa Michaelson-Chemelir, shared that “80 percent of artists who participated in the exhibit said creating the pieces positively impacted their attitudes, and 94 percent of guests said the same about viewing the art.”

Awards were also given to the artists considered to have the best pieces by leaders in the UCF community familiar with art technique and design, and diversity and inclusion.

Jordan Senarens was awarded third place for her piece, a geometric-style acrylic painting titled "Diffracting Time," which she created using blue tape to create sharp lines for geometric patterns she paints over the scene. She said peeling off the tape to reveal her work is the most satisfying part of painting.

“In this piece, I am attempting to visualize the notion that all time occurs simultaneously and dissolves together by viewing the same physical section of sky at two moments in time.”

Ben Wooten, a photography student at the Daytona Beach regional campus, took second place for his portraits that bring visualization to people’s struggles and the stories they share with him. One depicted a young woman wrestling with infertility by photographing her holding a cracked egg shell full of dust.

Cecillia Lin won first place for her digital medium art entitled “Unity.” It depicts two barren trees with a solitary patch of leaves coming together to form an apple. The piece is on display in the main waiting room at CAPS, with a quote written below that reads: “Art speaks many languages. We invite you to take part in this dialogue.”

The artwork will remain on display for all those walk through the counseling center until next year’s opening exhibit.

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Magan Loibl is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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