CREATE Arts Center

Brightening lives through art programs

Art therapist Gwen Short (left) works with Jane Young (center) and Claudia Krizay during a session at CREATE Arts Center in Silver Spring. Photo by Liz Lynch.


“You can take something scary and make something beautiful out of it,” says Claudia Krizay, 62, who paints, draws, writes poetry and works in other mediums through the art therapy program at Silver Spring’s CREATE Arts Center.

At 14, Krizay was diagnosed with schizophrenia. At 15, she was hospitalized for it; a “horrible, horrible experience,” she shares in one of the many poems—four books worth—she’s written.

“It’s therapeutic that way, where you can take something inside of you that tortures you, frightens you, and put it down on paper. It helps you understand your illness better,” says Krizay, a Silver Spring resident.

Gwen Short, one of five art therapists at CREATE, says she loves “using art and having people discover things about themselves.” Short screens individuals with emotional, behavioral or cognitive needs who are interested in the “Studio Downstairs” therapy program—the nonprofit moved to Silver Spring Avenue in April, but previously held therapy sessions downstairs at 816 Thayer Ave.—to see if they would benefit most from group or individual art therapy. In addition to making artwork, participants have one-on-one sessions with an art therapist, and also have an outside psychiatrist with whom their CREATE therapist can discuss progress and concerns.

The organization also offers multiple programs for children. Twenty art teachers lead classes for ages 2-16 throughout the year, summer camps for children 6-12 and, through the smARTkids program, free after-school classes for at-risk students at Takoma Park, Arcola and Woodlin elementary schools.

This past summer, CREATE introduced workshops for adults, too. Linda Marson, the organization’s executive director, says she hopes to create community partnerships that would allow the organization to offer mommy and me classes, events at senior centers, and classes catering to the college interests of 15- to 18-year-olds.

It has been seven years since Krizay was last hospitalized, and now that she knows how to better cope with her symptoms through art, she doubts that she’ll need to be hospitalized again.

Another art therapy student, Jane Young, has been with the organization for nearly two years and recently started her own business, JaneAnnArts, selling paintings, photographs and mixed media pieces. The 52-year-old is legally blind. “I never thought I could sell a piece, have my art in a gallery,” says Young, who lives in a Silver Spring apartment that doubles as her art studio. “I’m learning about the business, and it’s fun.”