Montgomery Museum of Art and History offering new programs that focus on mental health

The free sessions will use different things like words, music, sculpting and other forms of art

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – The Montgomery Museum of Art and History is trying something new. The museum is drawing up a new four-part interactive series called “The Art of Happiness” to help people with their mental health.

Shelby Wynn, who will be directing the programs, is a licensed counselor within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Carilion Clinic.

Wynn says, “I am going to be leading talks on positive psychology and how just getting up and being a part of the world and going out to art museums and just being out can build up your spirit.”

Wynn credits art with saving her life.

“I had kind of my own stuff, as we all do, and it was just an escape. It was really a fun way to kind of process a lot of things that I didn’t have words for,” says Wynn.

In the same way that art rescued her, she hopes it will save others as well.

“It is not about the product, it is more about the process, and I really want to hone in on that,” Wynn says. “You are not getting a grade on how well it looks. I want people to get something out of it emotionally.”

The sessions will use different things like words, music, sculpting and other forms of art to give you tools to better understand your thoughts and emotions.

For example, you can pick a book, turn to a random page and circle words that pop out at you. Wynn explains that you will read down the page as if it were a poem and then relate it to your life.

Casey Jenkins, who is the Executive Director at the Museum, says he saw programs like this happening in other parts of the world and wanted to bring them to Southwest Virginia.

Jenkins says, “We can address and raise awareness for mental health and access to mental health in the area by using museum spaces exhibits and resources. So it is a unique program and an out-of-the-box way of thinking of how a museum can be accessed by people and what a museum can stand for "

The sessions will take place on the third Thursday of every month, starting on Dec. 15.

The first session will explore the ability to cope with words to help participants gain a better understanding of thoughts and emotions. The second session on Jan. 19 will feature visual music through abstract drawing. The third session will facilitate mindfulness and meditation through sculpting.

Jenkins says, “Making space for art therapy in a museum or cultural center can have very profound effects as it relates to experiential self-help.”

You can sign up for the session online and they are first come first serve. There are about 20 spots open per session.

All materials will be provided by the museum and no art experience is required.

This is not designed to be an outpatient group therapy session, but rather a free community-building self-help experience.

About the Author:

Brittany Wier joined the 10 News team as the morning reporter in August 2021.