Healing Art Studio: Creating Space for (Re)Creation

– Written by Kristen Curtis

Rev. Amy Hall is a Baptist Chaplaincy Relations endorsed lifestyle chaplain and the founder of Shalom Creatives. Two of the community ministries she has shepherded into being are The Healing Art Studio that met monthly ELCM Community Center in Madison Heights, VA (funded through a one-year WMUV Alma Hunt grant in 2022) and the Leadership Art Circle, a monthly gathering of women in church and ministry leadership roles.  These ministries grew out of her healing journey and seeing how art was a valid (and validating) form of journaling and expression as color and images filled in the gap for the pain she struggled to put into words. It quickly became obvious to her that it wasn’t about making something pretty but about expressing emotions, and this is where she often begins when she facilitates healing art workshops.


God uses art to do His work in the world and in people’s hearts. And creating art is a process of telling a story – of seeing, of acting, of being, and of moving our bodies in form and fashion like God – of becoming alive as the new creation that Christ made possible for us. Art reflects how we view and respond to the world around us.  When we view art this way, as a process, it becomes less about producing a beautiful, finished product to hang on the wall. It can become a ministry of community that births thoughtful, communicative, safe relationships that welcome questioning, thinking, wrestling, reflecting, encouraging, and becoming. Art can be a vehicle to explore the experiences we may not have words to express, to contemplate the emotions that sound fails to capture, and to connect with others in the midst of their own process who are also hoping for trusting community where feelings (even socially awkward ones or ones that are “all over the place”) are welcome. In the process of creating art in a group setting, often pain is lovingly and supportively witnessed, vulnerability is welcomed but not forced, and reality does not need to be re-packaged for social media or hidden behind a façade of a perfect “finished product.” This kind of ministry is about creating space – a physical space to be creative and explore new forms of expression and an emotional space to be (re)created through the same practice, being seen and heard by others who care, and by seeing and hearing others in their own messy process of becoming.

When we open the Bible, the very first words we read are “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:21 says, “God created great sea creatures and every living creature that moves…” And in Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” And his acts of creation don’t stop in Genesis.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

If the very first act of God in the Bible is to create and faith in Jesus re-creates, and if God created us in his own image, it stands to reason that he instilled some of his creative nature into us. To create is to imitate God and to live into the character instilled in us by our creator. Creative expression is a gift of God, intended to happen for community and in community – he instills in us artistic gifts like he gave to the Israelites in building the Tabernacle to make it a holy and awe-inspiring space. They were gifted with talent, but also with the ability to teach, to pass on what they knew to others, all for the glory of God.

In Hall’s art ministry, she will often teach people about “color mapping” their emotions (using tissue paper of different colors and tearing it and gluing it down in varying amounts, layers, and layouts to express emotion and the intensity of emotion) or collage (using pictures from magazines) and mixed media art.

I don’t lead a detailed art project…it’s more about the process rather than the finished product. So I begin with an art prompt to focus participants’ thinking and creating. Questions like, ‘what are you thinking about in this moment?’ or ‘what blessings are you experiencing this week?’ or ‘what challenges are you dealing with this week?’ are good starting places for collage art. People look through magazines and find pictures that illustrate their blessings or challenges whether it’s children, homes, animals, flowers, etc. (it can be literal or symbolic).

We start with something light at first and begin building a relationship with the participants as they work through the art process. A lot of people think they can’t do art, but breaking it down into small easy steps helps them to see they can create something, and they begin to discover the benefits of art. Once we build a rapport with the participants, we begin moving into harder topics like collaging a timeline of your life or making a pie chart that is representative of life’s notable seasons.

The Healing Art Studio and Leadership Art Circle did not begin as full-fledged ministries. Much like the art that participants are led to create, there was (and still is) a process of becoming. Hall began by offering one-time workshops in her church and other churches in her area doing color mapping or collaging. She also shared her own personal art journals, teaching about how she processed her own experiences and the Bible and finding God’s love and comfort through art. As she shares her own story, people often find inspiration to think creatively about how to process their own spiritual journeys.

One of my favorite activities with color mapping is to bring in gingerbread man-shaped paper cutouts and ask participants to do some color mapping on them. When they are done, they will move to a quiet area and work through a list of questions like, ‘Have you ever been bullied? Has anyone ever yelled mean words at you? Have you ever been scared? Have you ever experienced abuse?’ For every wound or trauma they have experienced on the list, participants use a hole puncher to punch holes into their gingerbread man.

After everyone has finished this activity, they are handed a yellow gingerbread man-shaped cutout to glue to the back of their original gingerbread man. When the gingerbread man is flipped over, all the holes associated with pain are now filled in with yellow. This represents Christ’s light and how He comes in and cleans out our wounds and fills in those wounds with Himself.

This is one sample of how art ministry helps people make that connection between what they’ve gone thorough and how God can meet them in that experience. It also helps them see that God is with them in the big emotions and the pain and that He is still there and wants to heal and redeem their pain.

Amy concludes this art time with a time of sharing which leaves room for the local ministry leader, pastor, or youth pastor to build on these concepts and insights in the weeks following.


The Healing Art Studio at ELCM started when, in November 2021, while looking at a group of Angel Tree Christmas wish lists at a local library, Hall noted that many of the requests were for art supplies. She reached out to the community center director who was hosting the Angel Tree to inquire about their art program and discovered they did not have an art program. The Director had been praying that God would send someone to start one there and from that, The Healing Art Studio was born. Out of that experience, Hall wrote a WMUV grant request that funded art supplies to pilot a year-long experiment: The Healing Art Studio at ELCM Community Center in Amherst. The Leadership Art Circle grew out of that experience as Hall recognized a need for women like herself and the pastor connected with the ELCM Community Center who are engaging ministry outside the walls of the church to have a supportive space to engage with other leaders and process their own ministry experiences. That group continues to meet monthly in Madison Heights, VA. Hall shares that she has learned a lot about leading groups like these in the process and shared some pointers, a supply list, and a list of resources for churches or individuals who might be interested in starting an Arts Ministry of their own in the downloadable resource below. If you’d like to talk more with Amy Hall about her process or how she got started, you can reach her at shalomcreativesva@gmail.com or at www.shalomcreatives.org .