UT students should have access to art supplies

Eva Strelitz-Block

Like all UT students, I’ve been receiving texts at least weekly from Healthyhorns reminding me how important it is to prioritize self-care. Academic departments across campus are reinforcing this message.

Creative expression has long been recognized as an effective form of self-care that offers meaningful relief for anxiety and stress. Art therapy specifically is a proven and widely used healing modality in therapeutic settings. Studies have shown that engaging in artistic activities reduces stress. 

Throughout the pandemic, I have found respite in art — and I’ve needed it. I have made many trips to Target for paints, canvasses and other art supplies. The cost, however, has not been insignificant. 

What should be a readily available mode of self-care can be inaccessible to many students due to the high cost of basic art supplies, including fine markers, canvases, clay, paints and paintbrushes. 

UT can take action to mitigate this inequity by allowing students to rent reusable art supplies, like paint brushes and easels, just as we borrow books from campus libraries and technology through academic departments. 

If UT is sincere in its desire to get students hooked on self-care, it should provide students with free or reduced cost access to basic art supplies. Doing so has the potential to have profound results on students’ well-being. 

“Engaging with our creative side can be really helpful for a lot of different things, whether that’s expression, processing emotions, helping us calm down,” said Ginny Maril, CMHC associate director of clinical services. “It can do a lot of cool things.”

The CMHC has a thoughtful and content-rich website that outlines meaningful self-care activities, including a recommendation for crafting. Unlike gratitude, deep breathing, meditation and napping, crafting requires supplies. 

Providing students with access to the materials required for art-related self-care would prove that UT is sincere in its efforts to get students painting, crafting and sculpting for their mental health. 

The recent virtual painting events that UHS has sponsored were a first step towards realizing this solution. They were designed to help students disconnect from our daily school stressors and find community in self-care. Brandon Jones, associate director for student learning and development, appreciated the value of these events. 

“People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I hadn’t considered painting as something I would want to do as a release,’ but for a lot of people it became that,” Jones said. “Going into next year and future semesters we are going to explore all of our options.”

Jones noted that they were able to put on these programs and source affordable art supplies. 

“I am not saying that we have money to blow or anything like that, but we could potentially leave some art supplies for students who live in the residence halls,” Jones said. “Or we could do something like ‘grab and go’ art supplies on Speedway once tabling resumes.”

I see the potential for an even more widespread expansion of access to art supplies for students. The SAC and the CMHC, both of which are highly trafficked areas, could serve as designated “art supply” depots where some items could be distributed on demand and others could be rented by students. 

This is not unlike the system already in place through UT RecSports that allows students to check out outdoor activity equipment — presumably to promote their engagement with the outdoors. “Spend time in nature,” after all, is another form of self-care promoted by CMHC.

This project’s budgetary footprint would be small, but its impact? Potentially limitless. 

Strelitz-Block is a Plan II and Anthropology sophomore from Austin, Texas.