The Art of Artists Among Us
There is a vital link between creativity and well-being, for all of us. Creative expression can transform individuals into unlimited resources of potential. ArtWorks Studio, at the Canadian Mental Health Association, provides the venue to tap into this potential with self-esteem, a sense of balance and a broader sense of awareness .
ArtWorks Studio is a local inspiration that promotes imagination, passion, and independent thinking. As quoted by one of the artists, "I paint to express. In a way, it allows me to document the abstract in my life. I use my art as a tool to connect with the surreal emotions that underline my surroundings".
The open, drop-in style studio is for people living with mental illness. It is a place where they can explore, learn and be encouraged to discover their individual artistic voice. Our program envisions an environment that is progressive, supportive and artistically meaningful. It encourages positive feedback while enhancing CMHA's mission to actively support the recovery process of people living with mental health issues.
The arts and creative engagement can be joyful, cathartic, calming and energizing. Through the arts, people across the societal spectrum are invited to view themselves, others and society through 'kaleidoscope' lenses. Whether we practice our craft faithfully or pick up an instrument or paintbrush for the first time, we are taking a very deliberate break from our demanding lives. Malcolm Learmouth of the British Association of Art Therapists states, "The arts can also be one of our deepest consolations, a vessel that contains and transforms suffering". When we are engaged with creativity, there is a flood of neuron activity in our brains, producing endorphins. As we well know, endorphins are our inherent mechanism to deal with stress. Considering the skyrocketing rates of stress, depression, anxiety and problematic substance use, the focus for the future needs to be on promoting and maintaining a healthier well-being.
Creativity is associated with contributing to mental flexibility which naturally aids in problem solving. A creative individual is open to learning new innovative ways of looking at problematic situations. There's a wider stance for risk-taking, both in one's personal art form and as well in social aspects be it family, friends, the work-place or in one's local neighborhood.Creativity promotes collaboration on many levels and for an artist living with a mental illness this can be a huge milestone in their ability to engage the world both locally and globally.
At the ArtWorks Studio we use art as a way to actively engage the artist to elevate and enhance the above principles. One studio member noted, "Enjoying artistic pursuits is a lot like getting much needed exercise; it helps to lift a person's spirits, and seems to enrich every aspect of life".
The process of art and creativity greatly enhances awareness through which we find a deeper understanding of ourselves and the way we engage the world. Wellness being a state of wholeness; integrating personal integrity, a sense of inner balance, greater flexibility and peacefulness, it only seems natural that the two elements creativity and well-being would greatly enhance each other.
We all have creative energy to tap into; we can do this better if we
realize that we all have the potential and allow ourselves the freedom to
explore it. Here are some simple tips to promote creative well-being:
"ArtWorks Studio is a harbor, safe even when my waters are unviable. Doing artwork carries me past my barrier self. It invites me to explore. Art lifts me up, turns me around, and takes me back! When doing art, I am somehow whole and at peace."
The third Artists Among Us: Through Our Eyes Art show and sale will be showcased at the Life and Arts Festival in Kelowna, May 9-11 2008.