Ask the Expert: Jes Reyes of Avivo ArtWorks

Q: How does creating art help with the overall healing and recovery process?

Art is healing because it can be a powerful tool for engagement with one’s self. Not only are you creating something when making art, but you are also building a sense of presence and space for yourself. Art can bring you into the moment, and though it’s an alternative form of communication, you can process, think, feel, and reflect through the expression of creativity. This can be important for recovery as it can introduce discovery and change, and possibly transform something difficult into something new and positive. I know this first hand, as I have used art to recover from long-term grief and anxiety.

Q: What are some examples of different types of art that people can engage in to help with the expression of emotions? In other words, are there other forms of expression other than painting and drawing?

Many artists I know are also poets! I think this is because poetry is another excellent way to explore emotions and thoughts. Getting words, ideas, and feelings out and writing them down is a form of release as it brings the inside out. Rainer Maria Rilke once said, “To write poetry is to be alive,” which I agree with immensely.

Q: Do I need to have any specific skills to be able to start creating?

All you need is the inspiration to try. No skills or experience necessary! All artists or people trying art out for the first time start as beginners. We build skills over time, depending on certain goals or interests. So, embrace the beginning as a form of exploration. Get to know what art forms are out there and then discover what you are drawn to or what you prefer to create with. If you don’t like drawing, you might like fiber art instead!

Q: What are some different mediums that are simple, fun, and affordable for a beginner?

First, I want to say that most artists work with a budget in mind when making art, no matter where they are in their practice because art materials can get expensive! This can be especially true when you are just starting and are curious. My advice when buying art supplies is to only buy what you need at the moment, paying particular attention to the projects you have on hand. Once you are done you can move onto something else, possibly buying new materials for what you will work on next.

You should have some staples on hand though like a sketchbook so you can quickly get thoughts down in the moment. This practice can develop into a daily habit, kind of like journaling. Think of it as doodling with intention or a drawing mindset! Many artists, like myself, use drawing to get into a flow state, ready to expand into more concentrated art making such as painting. So having or reusing paper on hand is essential. I think paper is the most readily available and affordable art material. It’s the primary surface I work with.

If you decide to venture into other mediums, I always suggest watercolor painting as an affordable option. I have found that the paint can last a long time and you can buy watercolor paper in packs that will last you a while. Also, you wouldn’t think of it right away, but ceramics can be affordable, too, particularly when shaping and forming simply with your hands, water, and air-dry clay. Once hardened, it can be painted on with tempera or acrylic.

Q: How is creating art as an individual different than creating art with other peers while in a group setting?

One thing I have learned over the years is how important it is to connect with other creatives. Usually, making art is a solitary experience so developing social time with peers who also want art in their life can be validating and liberating. I think this is because when you are in a group setting you are relating with others, receiving and giving feedback, supporting one another, and possibly collaborating on art together.

Q: How has helping others develop their skills as professional artists helped your own journey as an artist?

My work in supporting other artists has only confirmed my ideas around art being more than a noun. I see it as a verb and a lifestyle. If it’s part of your life and you make room for it, it gets easier to show up and create things. I see that in myself and I see that in others that I have assisted over the years. Our voices matter. Our lives matter. And art can help us communicate that, each day as we commit to making.


Jes Reyes, MA (she/her/they/them) is a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and arts administrator, having exhibited her work throughout the Twin Cities. She is the founder of the Altered Esthetics Film Festival and coordinates programming for Moonplay Cinema, a microcinema supporting women/nonbinary/trans filmmakers. As an Artist Career Consultant for Springboard for the Arts, she provides one-on-one support to artists and teaches the Work of Art: Business Skills for Artists. You can also find Jes leading a team of service providers at Avivo ArtWorks, a multi-faceted art program for artists living with mental illness.

In 2005, Jes moved to the Twin Cities from Southern California, a year after graduating from California State University, Long Beach with a double major in Women’s Studies and Film and Electronic Arts. Jes now holds a Master of Liberal Studies degree (focusing on creative writing, feminist theory, and film studies) from the University of Minnesota, with a minor in Museum Studies (focusing on curatorial studies and community arts). Her mission is to support and build community among artists. This is often through community-based projects, career support, and presenting artwork. You can learn more about Jes by visiting her website: www.jesreyes.com

If you have a question for the experts, or you are an expert interested in being featured, please email phoenix@thephoenixspirit.com. Experts have not been compensated for their advice.

Last Updated on July 14, 2020

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