FANWOOD, NJ -- “I love artsy communities, and I feel like our town lacks that," says artist/entrepreneur Lisa Cyckowski. "Technology, you know, is something we can’t stop from happening, but I feel like we’re leaving those other things behind. I wanted to bring more art to the community.”

Lisa Cyckowski is an artist from Fanwood, NJ, with a passion for life and for making a difference. She’s far from an artist in it for just art, for she hopes for her art to serve as a medium for people to grow more open about mental health.

“Now that my kids are grown, I just started creating again, and I found it very healing. I’m very passionate about mental health. I do have depression, and luckily I’m doing well, just sometimes we don’t talk about it enough, in this world, and I feel that the art helps to make conversation; to look at it and feel something and get in touch with your feelings” Cyckowski said.

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Cyckowski runs a website called Strings with Benefits, where she sells her art. She makes an effort to make sizeable donations to mental health funds, including Caring Contact, a local organization dedicated to listening, and helping people with mental health disabilities. Cyckowski hopes to volunteer for Caring Contact in the future to further her involvement in mental health activism.

“As a community, [mental health is] one of the hardest things to talk about, I feel, and it’s obviously in today’s world” Cyckowski said. “We have people out there who are shooting and who are very aggressive at young ages and who are maybe not getting the help that they need, and people not recognizing that they need help. It still has that stigma, that people don’t want to bring it up and talk about it. I just wanted to find an easier way, that through art, to be open about it, and have more people be able to share what’s going with them.”

Cyckowski remembers getting her first set of pencils and charcoal from her dad when she was about five years old. She had always dreamt of being an artist, and now that she nears retirement, hopes to pursue her passions full time.  

One of Cyckowski’s most well known works is her character Stringer, who has a large mouth, huge eyes, and a lust for sunshine. She uses Stringer to talk about mental health, but also, to bring joy to people.

When it comes down to it, though, Lisa Cyckowski hopes that art can bridge the gap in our society, and in our hearts. She displays her work at Railside Cafe in Fanwood, and hopes that her work can evoke emotion in those who view it.

“The day that I put [my work] in [Railside Cafe], the next morning, I got a phone call at 8:30 in the morning from a man I didn’t know, but I guess he got my number from my cards. He thanked me for putting up the work, and he said he had never saw it [at Railside Cafe] before. And then he said, he stopped to get a cup of coffee, and it made him stop to look at it. And he said for a moment, he stopped and he started to feel something, and he didn’t know what he was feeling, but he said what he liked most about it, is that it gave him an experience where it took him out of the day and into something else” Cyckowski recalled. “He said ‘In our fast-paced world, I had a few minutes to myself.’ And he didn’t buy anything, and I thought that was worth a million dollars, because he called me just to tell me that he felt something.”

Cyckowski hopes to continue to bring art to the community, and to provide opportunities for the community to get creative, as well as to draw attention to mental health, and to raise funds for those who need it.

Be sure to follow @lcyckowski on instagram, and Strings with Benefits on Facebook to see more of Lisa’s work!