Feeling blue in tough times? Grab some paper, crayons and pick another color

If you're feeling stressed about shrinking investments or layoffs at work, you might find some relief in yoga or a long run.

Or how about a box of crayons?

Wednesday, the McColl Center for Visual Art put another tool on the table for coping in times of uncertainty: Art, just like you made as a kid.

Staffers stocked a basement studio with paper, paint, markers and pastels, then invited the public to use them to express feelings about jobs, the economy, you name it.

The goal: Shake loose some of our innate creativity and apply it to the struggles we face right now.

“It's a way to think through your hands,” said McColl staffer Christopher Lawing. “A way to process emotions using a different side of your brain.”

The project, dubbed “What's Going On” after the Marvin Gaye song, continues through Saturday.

At a table covered with brown paper, Kristin Kelly, 31, of Charlotte painted a line of brightly-dressed people standing on a green lawn.

She's a freelance ad copywriter who has felt few effects from the current economic turmoil. But her parents, family members and friends are so worried that she's found herself getting anxious too.

Kelly said she passed a long line of voters this week waiting in the windy cold to cast their ballots. Their dedication was so inspiring she put them in her painting.

“We all go about our day, and we're all busy,” she said. “But it's important to remember that when we come together, great things can happen.”

Kelly said making her painting almost felt like yoga.

“It's just a different form of release,” she said. “It's not physical. It's more an emotional release.”

Suzanne Fetscher, president of the McColl contemporary arts center on North Tryon Street, made her own painting Wednesday. “Everybody has a creative capacity,” she said. “We had it as kids. Adults just lose touch with it.”

In her painting – dark blue on one side for worry, bright orange and yellow on the other for opportunity – she wrestled with her own emotions.

She believes the creativity people put on paper in this project may jump-start a creative process that helps with problem-solving in other aspects of their lives. “Everybody's having to reinvent themselves today,” she said.

At the end of Wednesday afternoon's session, 14 works were posted in the studio.

One was a drawing of a crying cat selling 5-cent apples from a stand on the street.

It's caption: “Kitten needs a job.”