Eye on KELOLAND: The power of art therapy


ABERDEEN, S.D. (KELO) — Lots of colorful flowers decorate Malchow Plaza in downtown Aberdeen.

But if you step a little closer you’ll notice there’s something different about the yellow roses in the center of the outdoor space.

They’re made out of clay.

“My dad’s favorite color rose was yellow,” Artist and business owner Carly Pochop said.

The bed of clay flowers all started after Carly Pochop’s father passed away because of cancer in May of 2020.

“After he passed I kind of just started to work and I didn’t deal with any of the grief, and then once the new year hit, it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks that the new year was happening and I had to deal with the fact that that year is gone and he is officially gone and so I instantly got into the depression stage and the anger stage of grief,” Pochop said.

Pochop turned to art and decided to make a dozen clay roses for her father’s gravesite with the help of her family.

“It was so therapeutic for me, and so moving onto that I thought, ‘Well, what if someone else needs to experience this,” Pochop said.

She then invited others to come pick up some free clay at her business Colorful Creations and make roses.

Krysti Mikkonen crafted one for her family.

“We’ve gone through some crap in the last 2020 and beyond and we’re trying to heal our own stuff,” Carly’s friend Krysti Mikkonen said.

People from other parts of the country even got involved.

“I shipped clay to New York; I shipped some clay to Seattle; I shipped some to Michigan,” Pochop said.

The community helps paint and install the roses. There are nearly 600 clay flowers here on the plaza.

“Some of the roses have names engraved on them. Some have a bible verse on them. Every single one of those roses has some kind of story of something that happened to them,” Pochop said.

Pochop and Mikkonen are now friends because of the Community Rose Project.

“She’s right. Art therapy is amazing in any way, shape, or form. It’s drawing a picture, doodling, just getting out of your head and not sitting in the mud and muck in your life,” Mikkonen said.

“It’s been overwhelming. It’s been so great to, as an entrepreneur and as an artist, for people to get it and for people to enjoy it and to understand the art therapy power that something so simple as building with your hands can make someone heal in such a powerful way,” Pochop said.

Pochop is also the co-owner of The Market on the Plaza, which is located on Malchow Plaza, and sells food, coffee, and more.

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