Frigid temperatures couldn't put a damper on the artistic endeavors of 21 people who attended Painting in the Park on Saturday at Mounds State Park.
Participants were reminded that the event was not an art class and that their work would not be critiqued.
"This is a judgement-free zone," said Melody Carr, an elementary art teacher leading the session.
Participants followed Carr's lead as she painted a scene depicting aurora borealis, the northern lights.
Every painting would look different, Carr noted, because each person would naturally have a different brush stroking style.
Participants were also told not to worry about being perfect. Mistakes could be painted over, Carr told them.
Many of the participants used the event for relaxation and quality time together.
Stephanie Kutzen, a trauma counselor from Chicago, came to get in touch with her creative side while visiting family.
"It's very unique, something I wouldn't (normally do)," she said. "I work with a lot of crisis, and this is a way to get in a different world. I have no responsibility to put out any fires."
Artistic escapes can help people get their minds off traumatic experiences, according to Kutzen. Though not trained as an art therapist, she uses such techniques to help others manage their stress.
"The only time human beings are not in stress or distress is (when) you're no longer alive," she said.
Saturday's event was hosted by Park Place Arts, a local frame shop and art gallery.
The program started at Park Place in 2013 before moving to Mounds State Park later that year, according to Eliot Reed, owner of Park Place Arts in Anderson.
Reed, a regular contributor to The Herald Bulletin's weekly On Nature column, tries to host Paint in the Park events during the offseason at Mounds, so that participants don't have to pay for park admission. Saturday's event was the first of three planned for this year.
The next two will be Feb. 17 and March 16 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Saturday's event was a paid event, with a portion of the proceeds going to Friends of Mounds State Park.
This article appeared in The Herald Bulletin.