PUTNAM COUNTY — Since The Leipsic Community Center (TLCC) opened its doors just over a year ago, Awakening Minds Arts has been a major provider of programming at the center. And, this is not the organization’s first foray into Putnam. Awakening Minds Art has been providing its programs in all but one Putnam County nursing home for over eight years.

Sarah Crisp, founder of Awakening Minds Art and its Executive Director, explains how the organization’s approach works with both young students at TLCC, residents of area nursing homes, and could help everyone in between.

“The arts are crucial for development in general,” Ms. Crisp says. “I think, for a lot of people, when they hear of art they think of simply just emotional processing. But, it really goes so much further than that. It’s crucial in development.

“Creating is one of the few activities that requires the whole brain. So, think of your left brain or your right brain, or maybe you operate in quadrants, creating is really one of the few activities that requires the entire brain to work together in unison.

“When you pair physical movement, or other academics subjects like history, math, science, with the actual art of creating, it does something absolutely amazing in the brain. It literally awakens in the brain. That’s where the name ‘Awakening Minds’ comes from. Neural pathways can be created at this point. Synapsis in the brain strengthened. And, overall, the brain just becomes a healthier more stimulated powerhouse for the body to operate.

“When people think that art is simply just for self-expression or emotional processing, it really goes so much further than that.”

These benefits are often first and foremost in Ms. Crisp’s own mind, because that was her entryway into the work. Though certainly a creative individual, she is not a formally trained artist. She graduated from the University of Findlay with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Understanding how the mind works, and how to best stimulate growth represents her focus.

“I grew up on a farm in Spencerville, and I was forced to use my creativity every single day,” she says. “It was really all that I had. I found that tapping into my creative brain everyday is really what helped me process childhood traumas. I do believe that without it, I would be a completely different person today.

“So, with my interest and love in psychology and brain development, and my passion for the arts, I fell in love with the whole concept of what Awakening Minds Art could be back in 2008, when this all was being formed. I knew it could be something really powerful for people, and it just grew from there.

“When you practice being creative, it becomes part of you. It becomes something that’s easier for you to do more and more of. As we get older, we stop creating as much. We stop doodling on our notebooks. We stop coloring. We stop building things.

“If you think about hard it is to get back into [those hobbies], you can see that being creative actually does take some practice. So, when you are creative, and doing it all the time, and you’re thrown something new, your brain can operate a lot more quickly. You’re coming up with solutions quicker. You’re coming up with more options for those solutions. Being creative can really make you a better employee because you’re a lot quicker on your feet to come up with better solutions to problems.”

All of this effort is not free, of course, and the organization is supported by the community that it itself supports, as Ms. Crisp explains.

“We are a fee for service, meaning we do charge something for each of the classes that we offer,” she says. “However it’s nowhere close to being enough. We are completely privately funded. We do not receive any type of government assistance. We’re not on any type of insurance, or a government waiver recipient. In order to keep our pricing low and affordable to families, we have to receive those private contributions from supporters.”

This support comes in the form of donated art supplies, consistent monetary donations, and through fundraising events, such as an upcoming Charity Golf Scramble at Moose Landing Country Club in Kalida (formerly Country Acres). That event is being held on September 30. Visit: www.awakeningmindsart.org/golf for more information on the Charity Golf Scramble.

According to Ms. Crisp, visiting the organization’s website is also the best way to learn more about the arts programs available at The Leipsic Community Center and throughout the area. Details can also be found on social media at: facebook.com/awakeningmindsartleipsic/.