The Therapeutic Benefits of Art

by | Jan 2023

Healing circle by Madeline, Concord Elementary.

Healing circle by Madeline, Concord Elementary.

Iridescent diamonds shimmer in shades of lavender, green and blue. Complex kaleidoscopic patterns burst in bright colors. Thick black lines divide deep, rich hues like a stained glass window. All this and more was showcased during the Healing Circles Digital Arts Project on October 7, with digital displays of student artwork projected onto nearby buildings during an Edina football game.

Students in Edina elementary and secondary art classes started the 2022–2023 school year with a special project, Healing Circles, an initiative of Edina’s Art and Culture Commission with the City of Edina and the Edina School District.

Recognizing the mental health challenges that students frequently experience, along with the therapeutic benefits of art, the community activity encouraged each student to make an individual radial design as a personal and positive expression of good mental health.

Leanne French-Amara, an art teacher at Normandale Elementary School, has featured radial designs in her curriculum for more than 25 years. “The concept of circles is so easy,” she says, noting that she hopes students will learn that this creative activity is always available to them. When they are stressed or just need a break, they can make a circle design—on a scrap of paper, with pens, colored pencils, markers. It’s a simple way to relax when life feels overwhelming.

“I liked it because it kind of calms you down,” a Normandale fourth grader says about making Healing Circles. And a kindergartner at Creek Valley Elementary School characterized her very first school art project with the enthusiastic exclamation, “It’s fun!”—an entirely appropriate description for an activity intended to enhance and promote good mental health.

While the digital display of students’ radial designs were available for one night, all the student designs are now available for viewing on

Contributed by Laura Westlund, a tour guide at the Weisman Art Museum and an art hound for Minnesota Public Radio.


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