Artistic Power: How art can have an impact on healing

Often, we think of making art as an escape from our everyday realities. It’s a chance for us to use a different part of our brains to express emotions and connect with ourselves and others in profound ways. But for many of us, this just scratches the surface of what art can do. And sometimes, we don’t even have to be making the art ourselves to feel the effects. Just being around it – experiencing its messages – can bring comfort and joy. Art therapy doesn’t have to be just painting and drawing. They can also include dance, music, writing, and acting, among many other forms. Below are three examples of how art is used for healing that will warm your heart and give you a new appreciation for the effects of art.

Artful Engagement – Creating Smiles Instead of Pity

Many families are finding comfort from art during stressful times in their children’s lives. For example, some medical conditions that result in a head shape deformity require the use of a helmet. As a treatment, these babies wear helmets for 23 hours per day for months at a time. They are typically white, making their appearance obvious and eye-catching. Parents sometimes face unwarranted judgment and speculation that they caused the injury of their child. This often leads to embarrassment and frustration.

To ease this burden, artist Paula Srawn turns this symbol of a medical need into one of individuality. She paints custom designs on infant helmets in a single day.[1] The designs transform the way parents feel about the devices and the way the public interacts with the family. Helmet artwork allows the public to be naturally curious. As a result, children with painted helmets often receive smiles rather than pity, making them feel more accepted by society. Furthermore, onlookers feel more encouraged to start a conversation with the parents by complimenting the artwork, giving parents the opportunity to tell strangers about the complex medical issues their child has.

The picture below shows one of Paula Strawn’s 3,000 creations, an aviator themed helmet.

Artful Connections – Bringing Communities Together Through Shared Experience

Even on a larger scale, art can be influential in healing a community after a violent event. For example, in September 2018, a Cincinnati bank lobby was the scene of a mass shooting.[4] A large canvas was used to cover broken windows and bank employees were asked to leave their handprints on the canvas. The handprints symbolized their strength as a community and started the recovery process. Art is unifying and seeing your own handprint surrounded by those who share common experiences develops feelings of inclusiveness, belonging, and support.

Artful Expression – Relieving Pain Through Art Therapy

It’s no surprise that art is good for our mental health, but did you know that art therapy can be beneficial for recovering from traumatic events? Creating art can provide less painful avenues for us to explore and express our most troubling feelings that words cannot communicate. For some, talk therapy can be stressful as it challenges us to confront our feelings and experiences head-on. On the other hand, s small study conducted by Dr. Girija Kaimal at Drexel University shows that art therapy reduces cortisol levels (a stress hormone) in as little as 45 minutes.[2] Even if art doesn’t help us to untangle our unresolved emotions, it can provide relief from the associated stress. Anyone can experience art therapy, even outside of professional settings, making it an inexpensive and easily accessible form of mental and physical relief and healing.

Now more than ever, medical professionals are understanding how mental wellbeing impacts physical health. Some studies have found that long-term feelings of loneliness can decrease longevity, but with the help of art, people report feeling more connected to others and nature. The presence of art in hospitals like murals and sculptures and even views of nature from hospital rooms can even have positive effects on pain reduction.[3]

Artful Experiences – Benefits Anyone Can Access

Throughout history, art has been used to record events, express emotions, and unite people. Art therapy capitalizes on this human need by providing a judgement-free avenue to express, confront, and grow from our most difficult emotions and experiences. Furthermore, artistic expressions used for therapy remind us that the purpose is not to process and then move on as if an event or emotion never existed. Instead, it allows us to document these pieces of our lives and carry them with us as we see fit.

At Yaymaker events, we provide space for you to dive into creative events and learn new skills. These art forms can serve as therapy while you’re at an event or be used at home when you need a creative outlet. Need some inspiration? Check out the events in your area!

Yaymaker has a vast project library full of one of a kind originals created by Yaymaker Hosts. All Projects featured here may not be available in your area.

[1] https://www.today.com/parents/artist-turns-babies-medical-helmets-works-art-t106848

[2] https://www.deccanherald.com/living/living-front-page/healing-with-art-734847.html

[3] https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2014/12/121776/art-healing

[4] https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2018/11/13/cincinnati-uses-art-as-a-tool-to-heal.html

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