The co-owners of The Artful Life Counseling Center and Studio were recently given a prestigious honor by the Small Business Administration (SBA), Natalie Blue and Madelene Pario were named the 2023 Women Small Business Owners of the Year for Massachusetts.
The Artful Life provides an alternative to traditional mental health counseling through the practice and delivery of expressive arts therapies and other holistic interactive clinical methods.
“Social impact enterprises such as The Artful Life are making a deep impact within our communities alongside traditional Main Street small businesses,” District Director Robert Nelson said. “Natalie and Madelene have created an innovative model to eliminate the mental health stigma and we’re excited to recognize their important work. “
Blue and Pario started The Artful Life in 2016, brought together by their shared passion to bring expressive art therapy to their local community via a counseling center and studio. Their intention was to use their expressive art therapy expertise to provide accessible and affordable mental health services and programming, with the long-term vision of eliminating or at least dramatically reducing the stigma around mental health by creating increased public understanding and acceptance of self-care and therapy.
“The Artful Life is a workplace for therapists who want to be in a team environment, that are passionate about the therapeutic use and benefits of the creative arts. We have tried to create a community space that allows both children and adults to benefit from our services,” Pario said. “At The Artful Life it’s about supporting our clients to harness their imagination in a way to promote change, and it’s through the amazing skills and efforts of our talented counseling team that we are able to achieve that and do it well.”
Based in a modern 7700 square ft. creative studio in Salem, The Artful Life is a thriving group practice, employing over 25 part and full time therapists who provide over 1,500 counseling sessions per month. In addition to individual and family counseling, The Artful Life has collaborated with several community partners including Salem Public Schools, LEAP for Education, NAGLY and the YMCA of the North Shore to provide therapeutic programs in and after school for at-risk children and adolescents.
“We are very proud to have created a supportive, thriving culture at The Artful Life that both understands and supports what we do, which is expressive art therapy and trauma-informed care,” Blue said. “We can all make an impact, the ripple-effect of a series of little actions that you can personally create will directly and positively impact somebody else. At The Artful Life we are trained to understand and create that space for the ripple effect to happen for both our clinicians and our clients, at all ages.”
In 2018, the pair were also finalists in the North of Boston Business Plan Competition sponsored by The Enterprise Center at Salem State University. Later that year, The Artful Life received an SBA loan as well as another loan from the City of Salem to finance the relocation of its business and buildout of new offices at 142P Canal Street in Salem. In 2020, Blue and Pario were awarded Best New Business of Salem by the Salem Chamber of Commerce.