Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in mental wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Julia Volonts, founder of Art Therapy Lab, located in New York City, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Art Therapy Lab explores ideas for creating art therapy experiences within a virtual space. We are a place for those with an interest in art and a curiosity for self-growth.
Our goal is to make therapeutic arts more accessible and foster community by connecting people from around the world through the shared experience of art-making within a safe and inclusive environment.
All of our experiences are designed to be community-focused, not clinically focused. This means we approach art therapy with the purpose of connecting others and supporting self-exploration, not diagnosis or treatment.
Tell us about yourself
I'm Julia, the art therapist, creator, and person behind Art Therapy Lab. My life as an art therapist started in 2015 when I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City to pursue graduate studies in Art Therapy. Prior to that, I was working jobs in film and advertising while making art on the side.
Did I always know I wanted to be an art therapist? No. Has becoming an art therapist changed my life? Yes. As an art therapist, I get to be an artist on my own terms, practice compassion and empathy every day, constantly learn new things about myself in order to grow as a human being, then, most importantly, help others through creativity.
I currently live between New York City and Europe. My location is flexible because I work completely virtual, which means I spend a lot of time talking to people through a screen. While there are pros and cons to virtual art therapy, overall, it has provided the opportunity to meet and make art with people from all over the world. This is what inspired me to create Art Therapy Lab.
I started working virtually in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. During this time, I found many of my clients were experiencing the same thing — anxiety, isolation, uncertainty, and the list goes on. Since we were all in lockdown, I thought, "what if we could bring people together to process these shared thoughts, feelings, and experiences?" or alternatively, explore our differences. This was when I launched my first collaboration with Paris Collage Collective titled THE ART OF BEING ALONE, where participants created art in response to what being alone means to them during the pandemic. We had people from all over the world, such as Peru, Norway, Hong Kong, and the USA, log in to make a collage together within a "virtual studio."
After this, I went on to facilitate virtual art therapy collaborations via groups, workshops, exhibitions, lectures, and social action fundraisers with amazing people from outside spaces like the School of Visual Arts NYC, Kyiv Collage Collective, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, European Federation of Art Therapy, amongst others. In addition, I started my own art therapy services, including 1:1 sessions, groups, and workshops.
In 2022, after almost three years of virtual work and witnessing the healing aspects of creative exchange between people from different parts of the world, I wanted to expand upon this and create a virtual "art therapy" community.
Art Therapy Lab is the integration of my independent and collaborative work. I created it as a way to make therapeutic arts more accessible worldwide, inspire cross-cultural connections, and continue the momentum of existing collaborations.
Working under Art Therapy Lab, my vision is to connect people around the world that are curious about the same thing — how art heals, then provide opportunities for them to experience the therapeutic aspects of art-making wherever they are on this planet. My thought is, "The world needs a space to heal. Why not do it together and do it with art." Now, let's get creative with our emotions.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Creating a global community, healing arts collaborations, and art therapy experiences that bring together people from around the world and make therapeutic arts more accessible.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Time management. I have so many ideas and want to do them all at once, but Art Therapy Lab is very small at the moment. Therefore, it is important to move slowly, decide what is best for our community at this time, and be realistic about what we can offer each month.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't recreate the wheel. Learn from others doing similar things, then think - how do I want to do it differently?
- Embrace your mistakes and grow from them. Silence your inner critic because you are good enough, and you are meant to be here.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help and take risks.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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