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Healing through Art

HippieVan at 12:00AM, April 8, 2016

Some very calming public art in my city - The Leo Mol sculpture garden.

As part of my degree, I’ve spent the last several months interning at an art gallery to learn hands-on curatorial skills. This particular gallery is fairly unique, because it’s actually located inside of a hospital. On Wednesday, the rest of my curatorial team and I hosted a panel discussion on “Healing through Art.”

On our panel, we had four artists working in different mediums talk about how they viewed healing through art. Although I would have liked to have a more diverse panel, they offered some really interesting insights. Most of them spoke about the healing process of creating art in terms of the contemplation it involves. One of them also discussed how grateful he had been for the gallery when he himself was a patient, because it offered a distraction that was mentally engaging and challenging.

I’m not sure that “healing” is the right term for how I personally view art, though. It seems to me that taking in art and having a creative outlet is less about getting better and more about kind of holistic ‘wellness,’ as cheesy as that sounds. It doesn’t always make me feel better to create things (in fact, it sometimes causes me a lot of anxiety), but I do feel worse when it’s not something that I’m actively including in my day-to-day life.

Do you think putting artwork in hospitals is a worthwhile endeavor? Do you find the process of creating art to be healing? What about viewing art?

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HippieVan at 7:33PM, April 8, 2016

@PaulEberhartd: That's really interesting that you've identified those two facets of healing through art, because those describe almost perfectly the twin themes of our exhibition: contemplation and expression.

PaulEberhardt at 9:36AM, April 8, 2016

Putting art into hospitals and such is generally a good idea, too. The old people's home where my grandmother lives makes a point of regularly changing the artwork on display on the corridor and their cultural offers. They actively approach artists from the region to do that, and they leave much room for individualisation. That's why the door to my grandma's room sports a poster of Gundula and Tiger done by me, and while she can't really see anything much any more, just knowing it's there does seem to make her happy, even give her some strength.

PaulEberhardt at 9:36AM, April 8, 2016

Apart from that, I well remember when I was in hospital for a month, and I believe my clipboard and pencils were of immense help once I was off the stronger painkillers. Soon my mood shifted from worrying about all that medical stuff to being annoyed at not having a proper drawing table. In retrospect I think that's an important part in any healing process, because one third may be done by the doctors, but for at least two thirds it's your own mind that does the trick. And I'm not simply talking about the distraction doing art offers. It's a means of staying yourself and sane while being more or less locked in in such an institution, respectively feeling so. There's probably some kind of spiritual level involved, as well... In fact, I've got no idea how those people manage who haven't got any artistic skills. I can only guess it must be terrible.

PaulEberhardt at 9:35AM, April 8, 2016

Art definitely has healing properties - I'm totally convinced of that! There is however no patent remedy, because it's a very individual thing - some prefer a sense of peace and harmony to counterbalance whatever ails them, some rather feel the need to vent the, er, negative energies or whatever you choose to call it. It depends on your current mood too. In reply to Kim I'd rather say that even ultra-brutal metal at full volume can in some cases be just as soothing (or at least cleansing) as, say, a zen garden.

KimLuster at 8:50AM, April 8, 2016

@HippieVan: Oh yeah - Pieces that make you ponder are best of all!!

HippieVan at 7:29AM, April 8, 2016

@KimLuster: That was something we had to take into account when we were curating our exhibition! We wound up vetoing a few pieces that I really liked because people might have found them distressing. But on the other hand we didn't just stick to boring photo-realistic landscapes, either - we wanted to choose pieces that would engage the viewers.

KimLuster at 4:44AM, April 8, 2016

I think certain kinds of art do exactly as you say! The 'beautiful stuff' like depictions of landscapes, flowers, certain still-lifes... I really do feel certain art does take the mind and soul to places so the body can heal better (even it's just removing stress...). But like music, not all art is meant to make us feel better; but rather to disturb us, to get under our skin! Just like you won't play the Sex Pistols over your baby's crib, you don't want Bruegel's Triumph of Death in a Hospital waiting room!!

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