By Meredith Sheldon

Murals, martial arts and yoga all have one thing in common — they were all at Depot Park on March 25. 352Creates, a free two-day event in downtown Gainesville, promoted community health awareness through artistic expression.  

With about 40 organizations participating and 40 volunteers roaming the park, the event provided art activities for people of all cultures, interests and ages. People could do anything from writing poetry to Irish dancing.

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352Creates is a network of people, businesses, clubs and other organizations that all share the goal of making the local community a healthier, happier place. The event, which was started in 2015 by UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine, aims to involve the entire Gainesville area, said Charlotte Kesl, 352Creates coordinator. “It grew out of the idea that the arts humanize the health care environment,” said Kesl. “Creativity is good for our health as individuals and brings the community together.”

The first day of the event focused on exploring creativity in a home or work environment where people shared their artwork via social media with the #352CREATES. The second day focused on the art activities at the park.

Jason Cochran, president of UF Innovation Academy Serve, a service and leadership organization, hosted a station at the event allowing adults and kids to paint, draw and express themselves on paper. After meeting with Kesl at Innovation Week, a UF service event, Cochran said the two thought linking service to art would promote creative thinking and better health. “A lot of people think things like arts and crafts aren’t related to health,” said Cochran, the third-year computer science major from Fishers, Indiana. “This event and these activities bring more attention to the arts and how it impacts and improves overall mental health.”

Even though it was his first time attending the event, Cochran said the UF IA Serve organization hopes to attend again next year with new ways to integrate health, art and community service.  “Everyone here is really interested in trying to incorporate art into the Gainesville community in different ways,” he said. “It brings attention to the certain sides of how to involve art to things like technology, service and yoga.”