Skip to content

Henry Street Addresses Mental Wellness Through Art

By David Montilla

Last year’s Self Expression Through Art group culminated in an artshow where participants present their art to the community at our Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center on Henry Street. 

Every Thursday from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., a blended group of CONNECT enrolled clients and community members gather at Henry Street Settlement’s Community Consultation Center for the Self Expression Through Art group. This support group uses a trauma-informed approach to assist clients with adapting an alternative, healthy method of self-expression. 

Shanell Kitt, director of CONNECT, poses with her personally authored book and artwork.  

Shanell Kitt, Director of Henry Street Settlement’s CONNECT (Continuous Engagement between Community and Clinic Treatment) program, uses her background in direct social work practice and fine arts to introduce participants to alternative outlets for expressing their thoughts. In Self-Expression Through Art, Shanell, alongside her group intern Yahdiris Escalera – artist and Case Manager at Henry Street Settlement’s Older Adult Center – creates an exploratory, fun and welcoming environment which features meditation, deep breathing exercises, refreshments, music, and dialogue. Shanell presents participants with weekly topics that encourage further emotional processing through varied artistic methods, including acrylic and watercolor painting, and incorporation of found objects and creative writing. Participants have responded positively to group topics, including self-advocacy, setting boundaries, goal setting and conflict resolution.  

Understanding the layered context of art creation and the importance of self-expression, Shanell analyzes each participants’ work and encourages further exploration into managing triggers in a healthy, affirming manner. Shanell recounted the story of one participant who came in for a session feeling dejected. He painted a skull on his canvas, which opened a dialogue about the negative feelings he was having and processing in individual therapy. During the next week, the participant returned and created art that was vibrant and colorful; He named the artwork “Making Connections.” 

Program participant Susie-Ann Parker credits this program with providing a non-competitive environment where her art can “flow freely” and she engages with others that deal with similar challenges. Participant Nourit Bendavid expressed she often finds herself arriving at the studio burdened by the stressors of life, only to leave feeling “nice and light.”  

Shanell provides art tools for the participants and offers them the option to work on their art in a group session, 1-1 with the therapist, or from the comfort of their home. 


CONNECT was created by the New York City Department of Health, amid a nationwide mental health crisis, to allow a more elastic approach to accessing mental health care and maintaining overall wellness.  

CONNECT serves our most vulnerable adult communities with mental health care, help finding housing, and employment support in a flexible model that meets clients where they are. 

If you are interested in joining this group visit us at our website for more information. 

Translate >>