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352Creates Set To Return to Gainesville This Weekend

An attendee draws during 352creates' 2016 event. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Kesl)
An attendee draws during 352creates' 2016 event. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Kesl)

The art and heath initiative, 352Creates, will bring art to the 352 community Friday and Saturday in an effort to inspire creativity, better health and sense of community.

The second annual series of events is a collaboration between the University of Florida's College of the Arts, UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, the City of Gainesville and other organizations. It was inspired by the Arts in Medicine program, which has made an effort to "humaniz[e] the healthcare experience for people in the hospital," said 352Creates coordinator Charlotte Kesl.

The initiative includes events across 13 counties in North Central Florida and includes activities ranging from painting murals, telling stories, learning different crafts and community service-oriented projects.

Each day of the event is given a different name and a different goal. Day one, Create in Place, encourages acts of creativity. Day two, Create in Community, encourages creativity in the community with events all over the area. Just a week before the event, 85 activities are already planned.

Last year, the organization only hosted a one-day event, yet there were still more than 60 organizations involved and more than 80 activities, according to Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager for the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.

Etling said he is a firm believer in creativity helping people and communities in multiple ways.

“Ultimately, we want to engage everybody in this effort. Although we focus on one day, we think that being engaged in a creative effort every day will make you a healthier, happier person,” Etling said. “The more we build a community that’s creative by nature, the more successful we’ll be economically, and the more happy and healthy we’ll be, as well."

Etling said it's important the event goes beyond Gainesville and Alachua County. According to him, creativity does not have borders.

“352Creates is really an extension of the [Arts in Medicine] program and really has kind of a robust goal of making Alachua County, Gainesville and the 352 region the healthiest region in the United States through its use of creative activities,” he said.

Etling witnessed the effect the arts can have on an individual through his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s. His father drew and painted multiple times a day for years, but as the disease got worse he lost his ability to do so. After time in an assisted living facility where he rekindled his passion for art, Etling noticed an improvement in his father’s condition.

“When I saw that be reborn in him, he was so much healthier and happier and empowered,” Etling said. “It was a small, one-person example of how arts changed and — through creative inspiration — was healing him against an illness that there is no cure for.”

Tina Mullen, director of the Arts in Medicine program, has been with the program for 26 years and has also seen the effects that creativity and art can have on the public.

“What we find is when we engage in creativity, our stress is reduced, it increases our ability to communicate and it reduces blood pressure,” Mullen said.

Mullen sees the joy of people interacting in creative activity and combines it with medicine in her work at UF Health Shands.

“The way we use that in the medical environment is we know that when our artists, who are trained to deliver creative practices in a health setting, go into a patient’s room and engage a patient or family whose lives have been interrupted by serious illness, we can shift their perspective away from what has completely over taken their lives and bring them back to a place of well-being," Mullen said. "A sense of self is restored through creative engagement.”

Mullen hopes that 2017 and onward will see the citizens become extremely involved and take charge of the event.

“What I really want to see from this year is a greater sense that the individuals who come forward feel like this is their event,” Mullen said. “This is a citizen-driven initiative, and I hope from our event this year that citizens in the 352 area code feel like this is something that belongs to them.”

A full list of events and activities can be found on the 352creates website.

This article has been updated to accurately reflect the partner organizations involved in 352creates and to rephrase what the participant in the photo is doing.

Nikhil Srinivasan is a reporter at WUFT News. You can reach me at or (352) 727 8145.