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Exploring Art as Medicine

Contemporary life is stressful and to enhance the quality of our lives we must find effective ways to manage this stress. Many doctors now suggest we treat the ‘whole person’ by combining conventional Western medicine with complementary treatments, such as acupuncture, yoga and massage. Integrative medicine, as this is called, appeals to many patients because it promises a broad approach to one’s health. I am not a doctor, but as an artist and a teacher, I advocate that included in this array of complementary therapies should be the Exploration of the Art Making Process.

The benefits of Art Making can be transformative. It can heal us individually and engage us socially. Studies on aging indicate that those who participate in arts programs are in better health, have a greater sense of self and community, and are less prone to depression. Stimulating our brains by learning and trying new things is good for us. We discover that when we open ourselves to the exploration of our creative nature, powerful changes occur; as we evolve so does our view of the people, places and greater world around us.

As children, creating things was natural; we built castles in the sand and made patterns from bird feathers and sea shells. What happened to that creative child? Why is it so difficult to tap into that which was once instinctive?

Every day we are faced with obligations, expectations and demands. Some of these stressors are self-imposed, others societal. Either way, we are bombarded with so much information that there doesn’t seem much time for free thinking and play. That is why at the start of an art workshop I suggest taking a few moments to just breathe deeply a few times. With relaxed shoulders and eyes closed, this simple act of relaxing allows us to hold the moment before we begin the process of creating. It gives each participant “permission” to release his/her outside obligations and (for the duration of the project) focus solely on making art.

No matter what your age or current career path it is not too late to express yourself creatively. When you begin to explore your creative side, you are planting a seed that allows you to build upon your strengths, relieve stress and nurture different parts of your personality. Art will expose you to new ideas, people and as many colors, textures and materials as you are willing to embrace. Most importantly, the process is fun. It will put a smile on your face and make you feel good about yourself. And while art is indeed very personal, it also tends to bind people and communities together in a non-competitive, harmonious way. That’s why I believe that Art is the perfect medicine!

Judy Nemer Sklar is a professional artist, teacher and student. She is in the process of earning her Master’s Degree at CSUDH/Humanities-Creative Track. She teaches a workshop series she has developed entitled “Planting a Seed: Creating Art Inspired by Words, Music Artifacts, Texts and Tweets” @2010. 760.340.9404

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