In May, I wrote about the positive impact of adult coloring books and my own recent participation in “The Real Art Therapists of New York Coloring Book,” a book that features images and interviews from 50 NYC art therapists. Since then, my colleagues and I at Tribeca Therapy have brought the fun, relaxing activity of coloring to our waiting room by leaving out pages from the books for people to color. The response has been overwhelming and it has been so exciting to see people of all ages coloring in our very own lobby.
A few interesting things have arisen from this experiment that I could not have anticipated. It has created both a verbal and non-verbal conversation between all of the people that enter our space. People come to therapy for many different reasons, bringing their experiences and their pain. Because of that and the private, confidential nature of therapy, it is not common for patients to interact with anyone except for their therapist when they arrive for their appointment.
The coloring pages have provided an opportunity for patients to feel the presence of one another, whether they are coming into face-to-face contact or not. When I greet a patient at the start of our session, so many people have expressed admiration about how others have colored and drawn. They also express curiosity about the artist. And sometimes, if more than one person is in the waiting room, the coloring pages might serve to spark a conversation.
Since the time spent in the lobby for people varies, another interesting dialogue has begun on the pages themselves, as multiple artists might be working on the same piece. For people who just have a few minutes, they might color a little and then leave the page behind for someone else to add or finish, creating a collaborative image between strangers. It is exciting to see people notice works they once started now hanging on the wall finished.
Even with the election behind us, there is plenty of fear and anxiety that remains for so many about the future of our country. And with the holidays upon us now, busy schedules and stress around family plans is at an all-time high. It has been another pleasant surprise to hear how many people have genuinely enjoyed the coloring pages and found them very relaxing. For some people who come through our doors, the time in the waiting room may be their only downtime of the day. Also, for patients who do not consider themselves artistic, the pages offer a moment of creativity for those who may not have had an opportunity to be expressive in this way at another time.
We will be keeping the pages up until the end of the year but for me, the lessons remain. It solidified some beliefs I already had about the positive impact that creativity has on people, even if it just happens a few minutes at a time. But what I will truly take with me is how much can be gained from a shared artistic experience, even if the artists are anonymous and participate at different times and days. People come here for different reasons and at different times, but they have all impacted the space and the others who walk within it.