Fledgling Jacksonville Nonprofit Releases Coloring 'Guidebook' For Art Therapy

May 13, 2016

Art therapy is an increasingly popular treatment option for those struggling with mental illness.

But for some patients, a perceived lack of artistic ability can keep them from exploring it.

One new Jacksonville nonprofit is hoping to change that.

It’s a scorching afternoon at downtown Jacksonville’s Art Walk. A DJ plays electronic beats as hundreds of visitors peruse tents filled with artistic creations.

While most of the stands are selling finished artwork, Carmen Joyce is leaning over her table, markers in hand, filling in a large drawing of a koi fish. She’s here to promote her group "I Still Matter."

“One of the goals of I Still Matter is to have healing groups and art groups in the community for people that can't afford treatment,” Joyce said.

I Still Matter recently gained nonprofit status. Joyce said the group began as a regular meetup for her and her artist friends struggling with mental illness.

“We just decided to get together — a couple girls and I — and we started doing art together and we just realized how healing it was," she said. "So, we decided to bring that out to the community."

But she realizes this type of therapy may intimidate people struggling with issues like anxiety since they might not feel their artistic skills are adequate. And that’s why Joyce says I Still Matter — in partnership with the Jacksonville branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness — has released a coloring book for adults called “I Still Color.”

“Coloring is something anyone can do. You know, we did it when we were children and it’s meditative. It’s good for stress relief and I think the great thing about it is you can explore on your own,” she said.

The pages are filled with pictures of plant life, animals and abstract shapes. It’s a compilation of 52 original images, most drawn by local artists, like Sherri Owens.

“Just knowing that people are going to use this as an outlet for anything, whether it be a mental situation or just to have peace for a moment,” she said.

Owens owns a graphic design firm and is competing in the Mrs. Florida pageant, representing Jacksonville. She met Joyce through her volunteer work at the PACE Center for Girls.

Owens says the coloring book can be a teaching tool for children whose parents have mental illness.

“My daughter who’s 5 — she saw me working on this, she saw me do the actual page, I did the koi fish in this book. And letting her know that some people need a different way of handling situations,” she said.

I Still Matter will have an art installation on display this weekend on the fourth floor of the Jacksonville Public Library as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Credit Sherri Owens / I Still Matter