She’s not an art therapist. But, the hands-on creative classes and one-on-one engagement through art can certainly be said to have therapeutic results for the students.
Lindsay Criswell opened Branch and Stone Studio last month at 144 West Center Street in downtown Marion, in a large open room behind Stitch & Skein. Spearheaded by two women entrepreneurs, the two businesses support and complement one another in a symbiotic relationship serving similar audiences in a creative environment. Lindsay’s art studio provides customized, hands-on art activities for small groups and individuals, with an ability to serve youth with developmental disabilities. The mother of three young children, Criswell has experienced the positive impact that creating an art piece can have on all youth, especially those with different abilities since she has one on the autism spectrum.
The Pleasant High School graduate left home to pursue a Bachelor’s of Fine Art with a double major in painting and fibers at Bowling Green State University and studied abroad in Italy for a time. After college, Lindsay worked as a manager running events, marketing, and design for her previous employer. She decided to focus on freelance design work from home after her second child was born, and was just about to re-enter the traditional workforce when COVID hit.
“I’ve always loved exploring different mediums (to create artwork),” she stated. “Over the past few years, I had organized arts’ activities at group events and led painting workshops for private gatherings, including a kid’s birthday party and a group of nurses.” One such birthday party for a 5-year old had a theme of ice cream – so they painted ice cream cones on canvas. “But, I’ve never had a place of my own for students to come and enjoy, like this studio space.”
As a professional artist, Criswell has shown in central Ohio competitions and galleries as well as in Cleveland, Ohio. Recently, she led a group of kids on the autism spectrum on a large group painting of the Harding Home, which is on display at the county auditor’s office, and received an award through the Community Art Contest. She also became very familiar with the backstage area of the Palace Theatre, having worked as a set and costume designer for performances held there during her high school and college years.
“This summer, beyond traditional art classes I plan to offer set design workshops for middle school students, with a goal of developing a pool of set designers to assist with high school theatre productions. In addition, grade school kids can learn to design puppets for the set. This is all part of gradually feeding into our performing arts and high school productions, as well as highlighting and eventually supporting our own community assets, like the Palace.”
Branch and Stone plan to offer adult art classes and a variety of summer workshops for children. “For example, paint by the glass is very popular right now,” she said. Often, the group needs help in making a choice of creative activity, especially if this is a ‘first’. Some other popular ideas include painting, drawing, collage, mosaics, mixed media, working with recycled materials, and much more.
Motivated in part by her own family’s experience with autism, Lindsay serves on the board of Autism Support & More, a Marion-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping caregivers of children with developmental delays. She manages the ‘art days’ for the youth and families involved, with a focus on reducing anxiety, improving motor skills, and sensory processing – all of which can be issues particularly for children on the autism spectrum.
“Something happens when people take time away from screens and everyday work, and sit down to a canvas with paint and brushes (or fingertips!)…it triggers a calming focus. We come away with a different perspective on a situation; creative problem solving is suddenly possible. The student, adult or youth, is able to see a new and different approach to a situation, to think outside the box.” Lindsay’s goal is to create a space where “everyone is welcomed and creatively celebrated.”
For now, Lindsay is using her business Facebook page for event registration. Class sizes are limited and masks are required. For hours of operation and upcoming classes: Branch & Stone Studio | Facebook