New Mental Health Art Club Makes An Impact

Mental illness can be a roadblock to a regular daily schedule in people’s lives. Talking, smash rooms or animals can be a way to help anyone who’s dealing with the voices inside their head.

Natalie Karmi, a University of Ottawa student, wanted to create The Art For Change to help people express themselves through art and make it accessible for students as a therapeutic alternative.

“I was introduced to a concept called ‘Art Hive’, which is a community art studio that welcomes everyone as an artist, no matter your experience,” said Karmi. “I knew this was exactly the goal I wanted to achieve.”


Natalie Karmi, president and founder of The Art for Change. Photo credit: Emma Gmazel

With this new non-profit organization, Campus Vibez uOttawa – a student union to manage the clubs – nominated The Art For Change for Best New Club award on Feb. 18.

This student-run organization launched at the beginning of 2020 and Karmi built a team for her organization.

Her team’s vice-president, Mariam Hasan, has helped Karmi since the beginning.

They both met in high school. Now, Karmi is a third-year psychology major with a minor in social sciences in health, while Hasan is in her third-year in health science. Being at the same university grew their high-school friendship and built a full-time club.

“Although uOttawa does what it can to support its students, we feel it doesn’t try to engage the students,” said Hasan.


Mariam Hasan, uOttawa student and vice president of The Art for Change. Photo credit: Emma Gmazel

And so, they wanted to start a conversation and reduce the stigma around mental health.

Early this year during a uOttawa Law Classic hockey game, in support of Do it for Daron – an education, awareness, and research initiatives at The Royal – they got the chance to do their first art installation on the wall. The community was able to place purple sticky notes with encouraging messages and this engaged people to start a conversation about mental health.


The Art For Change's first art installation at a uOttawa Law Classic hockey game. It was in support of Do it for Daron (DIFD).

The Art For Change’s purpose is to “provide a creative outlet for anyone to explore/seek art as a therapeutic alternative.” This will give students the chance to relax and get a chance to reduce stress.

While they started as a club at uOttawa, Karmi and her team hope to expand the organization to the community and speak about mental health through art.

On Feb. 7 they shared a GoFundMe campaign to help support this new club.

“Donating money, old art supplies, recycled materials are all really useful to us,” said Karmi.

The funds will help The Art For Change to gather art supplies, so students have access to free materials during activities.

With The Art For Change just starting up, they will be doing their first event on Feb. 28.

“With such a passionate and supportive team starting up our club, we believe that this club could really go big, and provide those suffering quietly from mental health,” said Hasan.


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