Why I Art: When times get tough for journalists, it’s time to get creative

By Jane Elizabeth

“When I paint, there’s no room for stress or anxiety.”

That’s science journalist Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato explaining her devotion to her very creative side gig — painting wedding dresses. To be clear: She’s not painting pictures of wedding dresses. She’s painting on wedding dresses.

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato and her painted wedding dress

Mollie’s also famous for making newsroom-goodbye cakes and cakes that look like anything from pizza to popcorn to grilled cheese. “It’s creative and fun and a wonderful outlet,” she says.

Being a journalist is one of the most amazing careers you can have. It’s also one of the most incredibly stressful. While much of the world can turn away from horrific events — the shooting of schoolchildren, the painful and preventable deaths of pandemic victims, the outrageous killings of Black men and women at the hands of police, the genocide of innocents in unfathomable wars around the world and so much more — journalists must immerse themselves in the horrible details. For days, weeks, years, even decades.

And always hovering overhead for many journalists: the justified fear that your paycheck won’t cover the bills. That your job may be gone tomorrow. That your family is suffering because, too often, you’re not there for them.

But while mental health resources and PTO may be inadequate in newsrooms, journalists are smart and resourceful. They find tiny increments of time in their lives to do something that makes them feel more connected to a sane and peaceful life.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, I worked with colleagues Ari Kilgore and Sabrina Herrera, with support from the International Women’s Media Foundation, to showcase creations by journalists and their thoughts on “Why I Art.”

Browse the Instagram campaign #ArtByJournalists and you’ll find:

Art by Sandra Maler
Dr. Michelle Ferrier

Journalists+artists are everywhere. Ask your local journalist what they do to create balance in their lives, and you might find embroidery by Hannah Wise, an audience editor at McClatchy; fiber art by The Arizona Republic’s Kim Bui; Bay Area News Group reporter Natalie Hanson’s knitwear; Newsweek investigative reporter Valerie Bauman’s jewelry; woodworking by Andy Carvin, a journalist and disinformation expert; McClatchy’s Annemarie Dooling, an artist and burlesque performer; journalist and consultant Emma Carew Grovum’s creations including tie-dying and knitting; veteran Virginia journalist Pauline Clay’s colored pencil art.

Valerie Bauman’s jewelry
Embroidery by Hannah Wise
Kim Bui’s fiber art
Pauline Clay’s colored pencil art

I’ve written about stress and newsrooms, I’ve advocated for change, I’ve definitely lived it myself in my many years as a journalist. The journalism profession’s stress is historic, embedded and endemic. It is not a problem that can be solved by watercolor or pottery, no matter how beautiful. It is, however, a problem that could benefit from vision and creativity.

But as we struggle to sort the issues that have created an often stressful and sometimes detrimental existence for those in the profession, journalists individually are trying hard to maintain balance in their own lives through their art and imagination. And we’re all richer for it.

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The International Women's Media Foundation is a DC-based organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of women worldwide.