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All Aboard the Life Craft

Campus | October 26, 2009

Ever dreamed of finding a land where unicorns dance near smiling suns, orange-bearded shepherds herd lone purple sheep, and bright, brilliant fish swim through the sky? Well firstly, you’re a weirdo. But secondly and more importantly, you need to look no further than the painted murals inside of Tufts’ own Crafts Center, a beacon of bright glowing lights at the bottom of Lewis Hall on weekday evenings—just look for the vibrant construction paper letters pasted on all of the windows. Open for free-form crafting, doodling, and dabbling of all sorts Sunday through Thursday, 7-10 p.m., the center is a wonderful and somewhat unknown resource for creative output on campus.

Funded by Tufts Community Union (TCU) and entirely volunteer-run by members of the Crafts House, this place has the muscle to provide craft enthusiasts and amateurs with any tool or material they can imagine in their little crafters’ hearts. So don’t let the hoards of haphazardly stacked cardboard boxes, splattered paint, piles of random books, and obscure collections of knickknacks on shelves fool you—this is not the neglected art station you remember from Miss Peabody’s third grade classroom. Here, you won’t find ruined paintbrushes, ugly scraps of all the worst construction paper colors, or glue that refuses to ever come out of that stupid orange squeeze cap.

“It doesn’t seem like it, but this place is very organized,” says Crafts Center volunteer and Crafts House member Alexis Daniels. “It’s actually kind of crazy how organized we are.”

Upon entering the ordered chaos of the center, you will find all manner of cardboard scraps, glitter, wax, beads, clay, pottery wheels, sewing machines, scissors, yarn, tubs of magazines ready for collage, weaving looms, chisels, clasps, hooks, colored glass pieces, paintbrushes, pliers, fabrics, glues, and all sorts of other baubles hidden away in drawers and shelves. But despite the bevy of materials bursting forth from the room, careful inventory is taken each week to check the functionality and availability of the supplies. All members of the Crafts House (endearingly known as Crafties) are responsible for a three-hour volunteer shift at the center once a week, and each oversees the inventory of different items before getting down to the business of groovin’ and craftin’.

“It’s basically a party here all the time,” insists another Craft Centers volunteer, Kelsey Schur. “Everyone’s always happy. There’s loud music and dancing, and someone’s always covered in glitter at the end.”

So it seems that spending some time at the Crafts Center may do more than just pass the time on a weeknight. Indeed, according to the American Art Therapy Association website, there’s a whole movement “based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.” A whole collection of professionals is on board with the idea that art is just plain good for you, and it sounds like the perfect cure for overly tense college students worried about friends, feuds, grades and their plans for the future.

This is where the Craft Center becomes such a great resource for students—though a little stint with fabrics and scissors may not wipe out all monotony and stress from your life, there are a lot of people backing up the idea that creativity and art can improve overall mental health and happiness. This doesn’t mean you need technique or training—pure imagination and random bursts of creativity are enough.

And let’s face the truth: We could all benefit from a little more glitter dance in our lives. Falling into the dull and stifling routine of late-night cramming and the rush from jobs to club positions to volunteer organizations and back again is easy to do, and usually ends with a kind of personal disintegration into a twitchy, coffee-blooded fiend stuck moving in high gear at all times. Really, it’s no way to live when you hardly have the perspective or clarity of mind to fully enjoy all of the activities in which you partake.

Plus, playing with glitter is just really, really fun. And everything there is free. Awesome.