Healing Through the Arts
Artists: Natasha Divina & Sarah Barerra
People have always used art to express their feelings and improve their well-being. What we have come to more deeply understand over time are the personal benefits of expressive arts. From a young age, we instinctively use drawing, painting or other expressive arts as a way to communicate, reduce stress and express emotions (Art Acacia, 2018). Children and teens are naturally creative. They continuously learn through play, relationships and their environment. All of us, no matter what age, need to have some way of expressing ourselves in order to maintain physical, emotional and mental health. Art can be a deeply integrative and healing process. This is widely discussed and is being utilized in many facets of society, such as health care, education, and in counselling therapy as in this TedxTalk Art as Empowerment: The Virtue of Art Therapy. Ann E. Lawton (2016) from the talk, asserts that “Art has the potential to heal, transform and empower individuals and communities.”
CreArt supports individuals, families and our community by providing free access to: 1) instruction, 2) mentorship, 3) safe virtual or physical spaces, 4) Instruments and materials. Here is one of CreArt’s Instructors, Kim, speaking about the arts and music. Kim teaches weekly violin lessons every Saturday from 11-2pm. Continuing to have outlets and opportunities to connect socially is a priority for many of us during this challenging time. Check out all the creative projects we are passionate about!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been affected by job loss, loss of relationships, decline in health and less connection to their communities. The structures and routines of our lives and relationships have changed and the impact of social isolation has been profound. One thing that was certain, and necessary, was the need to adapt to ongoing change. Learning to shift how we learn, work and live our daily lives demands flexibility and the capacity to pivot whether we expected to or not; to bend and move, and go with the flow.
Our plan for 2021 is to keep adapting and inviting our membership to join us in arts-based workshops and events throughout the year. We have seen first hand the wide-reaching positive impact that the arts can have, so we recognize how important it is to keep providing our members with access to arts-based programming.
How does Art heal?
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” -Pablo Picasso
Dare to be Seen
Art is a way of being
Without it we may have function
But we lack meaning
Art is timeless
Without it we tighten the noose
The need to express
Without it go through motions
Urges to suppress
When creative sparks fly
Without guesses and plans
Onto our souls we spy
What Art dares to mean
Without our doubt and fear
A freedom to be seen
— Izabela Bienko
Engagement in the arts encourages us to be flexible and explore, to be curious and to better deal with changes in other aspects of our lives. When done with the intention of healing, it can be so much more than a hobby or past-time. Expressive arts are therapeutic and healing because they help us regulate our minds and bodies, and as a result, function better in daily life. Art can be a refuge from intense emotions that life circumstances often invoke; the relaxation and symptom reduction produced by creative expression open pathways to emotional healing (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).
Serenity - Izabela Bienko
“Art is the one place we all turn to for solace.” - Carrie Mae Weems
Through arts-based activities we can nurture healthy personal development at any age. Which means that we can always improve in how we deal with life’s challenges. Engaging in creative activities encourages connections between our minds and bodies, which then facilitates development of social skills, problem solving, coordination, spatial awareness, self-awareness and a sense of overall well-being. More specifically, art can help with learning disabilities, severe stress, trauma, depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues (Art Acacia, 2018). There is evidence that expressive arts like music, dance and painting helps to decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances. These activities also enhance mood and support self-awareness and improve quality of life (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010). Check out this video of our Executive Director, Sebastian Barrera, as he paints ‘Monkey Time’.
Monkey Time - Sebastian Barrera
Playing an instrument, singing or listening to music are great examples of art we can all relate to. Stuckey & Nobel (2010) report that music can significantly reduce pain and has been shown to reduce anxiety, restore emotional balance and effective functioning in the immune system. Kathleen M. Howland in this TedxTalk, explains that "Music therapy is an ancient and yet very modern practice that has the power to heal and transform our brains and bodies in significant ways."
Art is a way to communicate an experience that we may not understand or have words to describe. Expressive writing like journaling, spoken word and poetry, can play a big role in healing. The use of poetry for instance, can help people find their voice and gain access to the wisdom they already have but cannot express because they cannot find the words in ordinary language (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010). Journal writing can help us identify and work through feelings, improve relationships, and learn new things about ourselves. Expressive writing, as Stuckey & Nobel (2010) reviewed, has been shown to also improve control over pain, and depressed mood. Personally, I find poetry incredibly restorative and integrative. It helps me to make sense of my experiences through non-linear, more creative, self-expression.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”— Maya Angelou
Whether art is expressed through words, instruments, ideas or the body, each note, brush stroke, step, and rhyme brings us into true self-expression. Art is a way to make our unique mark on the world. Each of us has something creative to contribute, however small, unknown or unrefined. As such, CreArt’s workshops are available weekly to help you develop, refine your skills, and connect through the Arts. More than a form of personal expression, art has the power to reconnect us with our sense of agency, freedom and purpose. Which is what is so healing about it.
This past year has challenged the way CreArt delivers arts-based programs and events to our members. Normally, the art world is a social beast, and people like to go to events, where they can interact with their peers (Jovic, 2020). One of CreArt’s biggest projects was an art installation, The Kinnart Ravine Mural Project. Since then, however, we have embraced the opportunity of online platforms through which to engage our membership. In-person, or virtually, the opportunity to learn and create art and music together allows our members to benefit from and contribute to their community. We know that building connections and expression through art can restore a sense of purpose, direction, and achievement (Evans, 2017). In continuing this conversation about Art and Healing, check out the round table discussion with two CreArt members/artists in this video. Join us in becoming involved in the arts! it is one of the most beneficial things you can do to facilitate healing at a personal, relational and community level.
Art Acacia. 2018. Devastating impact on Artists and Creative Workers. Retrieved on February 18, 2021 from https://www.artacacia.com/blogs/posts/covid-19-s-devastating-impact-on-artists-and-creative-workers
Art Acacia. 2018. How Art can Heal. Retrieved on February 18, 2021 from https://inna-13021.medium.com/art-therapy-how-art-can-heal-bb66c6915bdf
Evans, J. 2017. “AAC Project ‘Culture of Recovery’ Receives Funding from ArtPlace America”
Hand, J., & Golden, T. (2018). Arts, culture, and community mental health. Community development innovation review, 41-49.
Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497