The pandemic has been a dark time for many people, but one mom found a way to make it brighter not just for her family, but for thousands of strangers – using art and social media.
Angie Carel has always loved drawing with her family. “When I was a single mom, we did a lot of art because I couldn’t afford the Nintendos and all the digital devices, so we always did art, literally daily,” Carel told CBS News.
That was about 12 years ago. Now, three of Carel’s daughters are grown – but when the pandemic hit and in-person learning and sports were canceled, they found themselves back at her house in Roanoke, Indiana. And their mom found herself turning to art again.
“Everyone was just sad and a mess. So, I had this idea this one morning and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to make them draw.’ Because that’s our happy place,” said Carel, who remarried and now has a three-year-old son.
“I sent them a text message that just said, ‘Draw a smiling turtle. And show me your artwork this evening at 7 p.m.’ And they did and they were laughing, we were laughing so hard at everyone’s drawing,” Carel said.
The drawing worked to boost their moods and it also brought joy to others, because they shared their silly drawings on Facebook. Angie’s friends wanted to join in, and soon, she had a whole community online following her drawing prompts.
“I kept it going, I just kept posting [on Facebook], ‘Here’s what you draw today.’ And then we revealed our drawings at 7 p.m. and it sort of evolved into what is now the ‘Simple Daily Drawing’ group,” Carel said.
When more and more people were interested in her drawing prompts, she created the “Simple Daily Drawing” Facebook group. It has grown to more than 8,000 members, who draw whatever Angie chooses – from a roaming ostrich, to their interpretation of International Women’s Day.
Carel started asking members why they were joining, assuming they just liked art — but the answers surprised her.
“The micro-communities that emerged were for sure mental health,” she said. Carel said she knew her own family was using the drawings for mental health, but after surveying group’s members, she was surprised to realize about 80% of the people that joined were there to use the art for mental health too.
She said the group is diverse — from homeschooling moms to people with arthritis in their hands, who say drawing helps them. “Every day there is somebody that says something about how this is helping them, and because of that, I just have to keep going. I’m not going to stop until my brain runs out of ideas, I guess,” she said.
Although she used social media to create this community, she said it’s simple things – like art – that bring joy.
“I don’t feel that people understand how important it is to take care of their mental health, until they start taking small strides to take care of their mental health. And I feel like we, as a society, are reverting to social media to get a lot of our interactions and our joy and our happiness and we forget about these very, very basic things and actions we can take to support our own mental health,” she said.