In the sixth grade, Isabella Vreux first played the viola. “I trained every day for three years to become classically trained and play my instrument at concerts,” says Vreux. The art of music quickly became an integral part of her life; she used it as a form of expression. During the pandemic, Vreux played the viola to stay connected with the world. “[It] protected my mental health and helped me find energy and life in art, while the world outside of my home was still [in lockdown],” she recalls.
Creatives for Change, active at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) since 2014, is a student-run association that supports students in their artistic endeavours by promoting creative expression. In 2022, Vreux, along with the current executive team, re-invented the group and strengthened the association’s core value of providing students with creative outlets.
“Coming into university in 2021, when Covid-19 restrictions were on and off, I wanted to continue my artistic journey,” shares Vreux. She wanted to join an art club and stumbled on the Creatives for Change club on the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union’s website. The club was, however, inactive. After considering the need for such a community at UTM, Vreux says she, “began the process of reactivating it and making it [her] own.” Now, as the 2022-2023 president of Creatives for Change, Vreux hopes that by encouraging creative expression, the club creates an environment that advocates for mental health, physical wellness, and innovation.
While in lockdown, Vreux found inspiration that fueled her art, which lead her to research the benefits of using art for well-being and academic innovation. “The therapeutic benefits of art have been studied through empirical scientific research, which proves the existence of emotional and physical relief through creative expression,” explains Vreux, highlighting the importance of including art throughout your day-to-day activities. In the reimagining of the club, Vreux reflected on how she relied on her artistic outlets in times of hardship. She explains that she “found inspiration during [her] time exploring [her] connection to art, to create an artistic space for all UTM students to express themselves.”
Art has often been associated with enhancing brain function, which makes it no surprise that creative expression also aids in developing our ways of thinking. “Exercising more complex thinking processes helps lead us to continued habits of working outside of the box and using divergent pathways when approaching challenging work,” explains Vreux. This further validates the importance of including art education in school and on campus.
While art fosters academic innovation through the stimulation of complex thinking processes, it further helps provide comfort to students in the form of stress relief. “What is so magical about art is that it is a physical release from your mind, body, and soul,” says Vreux, “and unlike other forms of therapy, art is accessible to everyone.” Just as yoga or dancing can relieve physical tension, art forms like painting or playing an instrument can help release mental loads. “The mind and body are often shown to be connected, as wellness and release in one area [helps] in the relief of another,” explains Vreux.
This year, Creatives for Change is highlighting music as a form of creative innovation. Vreux shares that the group is “looking to invite musical artists from Toronto to speak to the student body and […] encourage UTM students to express themselves using sound as an art medium.” Music as a form of artistic therapy has long proved to be an effective way to promote wellness, manage stress, and even alleviate pain. It has helped enhance memory, which can be beneficial for students looking for greater academic and personal success.
For those who are afraid to look for creative outlets because they don’t consider themselves artsy: worry not! Art is subjective: “What you create is an expression of who you are and your experiences,” says Vreux. If you are looking to develop your creative expression, reach out to Creatives for Change (@utm.c4c on Instagram), who will guide you to the outlet that works best for you.
Associate Features Editor (Volume 48 & 49) — A recent graduate from UTM, Dalainey is currently working on completing her post-graduate studies in Professional Writing in Ottawa. She previously served as Staff Writer for The Medium‘s 47th Volume and as Associate Features Editor for Volume 48. Through her passion for languages, Dal hopes to create a fun and inviting atmosphere for readers through her contributions to the paper. When she isn’t working, Dal focuses on developing digital art and writing her first novel. You can connect with Dal on her Instagram or LinkedIn.