Promoting Peace Through Art Therapy

News Story categories: Behavioral Neuroscience Psychology
A girl promoting peace through art therapy standing next to a colorful house in a park.

Rithanya Saravanan ’24 believes that art has a therapeutic power to relieve stress. Through a Projects for Peace grant awarded for the summer of 2022, the Randolph-Macon student and Glen Allen, Va., native is bringing that art therapy to her local community.

Projects for Peace is a global program that encourages young adults to develop innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. Along the way, these student leaders increase their knowledge, improve skills, and establish identities as peacebuilders and changemakers.

Saravanan is a biology and behavioral neuroscience double-major and chemistry minor, and serves as a wellness advisor in the Counseling Center.

Saravanan partnered with Henrico County 4-H, the Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the Henrico County Department of Recreation & Parks to install art nooks at Deep Run Park, Dorey Park, and Echo Lake Park. These art nooks are filled with free art supplies, such as sketch paper, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, markers, colored pencils, crayons, clipboards, construction paper, rulers, and stencils.

The nooks are placed in parks with the goal of providing the public with accessible art supplies in an already serene location. Eliminating the cost of the supplies also extends the therapeutic benefits of artistic self-expression to everybody.

The grant also enabled Saravanan to coordinate free virtual art classes. Saravanan and her sister, Nikhita, taught multiple sessions of six different classes, each featuring a different art style from around the world. The Saravanan sisters had over 130 total participants in their virtual classes.

“Being able to make an impact on our community and the fact that people are smiling after our class means a lot,” Saravanan said. “When you have a vision and execute it and see the end product and the impact it makes, that satisfaction is unmatched.”