The Positive Power of Art

Everyone should have access to making their life better and living a healthy life. This is where we can all make a difference: advocating to make the benefits of creative activity, arts education, and arts experiences more openly accessible to more people. You might be surprised to know that the arts and health have over 100 years of partnership. Visual art, music, dance, creative writing, dramatic play, and theater have been used for decades to enhance individual experience in hospitals, mental health treatment centers, senior care facilities, emergency rooms, occupational therapy clinics, in pediatric care, and more. Wherever people are in crisis—health or otherwise—creative activities are found. 

Music Therapy for Military Service Members in Alaska

Second Lady Karen Pence Visits Creative Forces Site at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Friday, February 9, 2018

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Second Lady Karen Pence recently visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, and observed a Creative Forces music therapy group session as part of her national and international initiative, Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART.

Brush, Breath and Line: A Veteran’s Recovery through the Arts

I am a US Army veteran, artist, teacher, creative soul guide, and like all of us—a work in progress. With all of these things that I feel I am, I know that being of service to others has been and will always be a thread in the tapestry of my life. The many journeys within my life always bring new challenges, self-awareness, and growth. It's been 20 years since my first battle with suicidal ideation and major depression. I've had some relapses since then, but with each fight, insights surface and propel me to more self-discovery and deeper healing. It wasn't until after my last relapse four years ago that I discovered what my “service to others” would be, and that my journey of healing through creativity would be born.

Dance for Brain and Body Health

As an undergraduate student at Wake Forest University studying Health and Exercise Science and aspiring to be a future physical therapist, I was excited when I learned about a pioneering Parkinson’s Disease dance class developed by Associate Professor of Dance Christina Soriano, which is now trademarked as her own IMPROVment™ method. Soriano has crafted a pedagogy of improvisational dance movement that aims to improve the mobility, balance, and overall health of older adults, giving participants a beautiful and joyous way to practice how to handle the challenges that a life with Parkinson’s—or any neurodegenerative disease—brings. 

Volunteers = Impact

For those who are on the ground working directly with communities, we know our work simply cannot be done without a number of partners, including donors; local, state, and federal government; other organizational partners; and of course, the children and families themselves. I’d like to shine a light on one of Pablove’s most important constituents—our volunteers—and discuss why they are so instrumental to the work that we do in the healing arts.

Museums and Creative Aging

In the United States, 1 in 10 adults age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. As the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will escalate rapidly. Although cultural institutions have created programs for this population for many years, how these programs are created—how educators are intentional in the works of art they select for the program, how much research and evaluation is put into a session, etc.—are growing and becoming more substantial. So, how are we doing it? And are these programs effective?

Why I support Americans for the Arts

The arts are important to me, and if you’re reading this, I bet they’re important to you too. I know you’ll agree that the arts help communities heal, learn, and grow. And that’s why I'm proud to support Americans for the Arts: because they help make it possible for arts organizations and artists in communities all over the country to do what they do better, through education, advocacy, professional development, case-making research, and more. I hope you'll join me.

Looking Back and Moving Forward—Supporting Our Veterans Through the Arts

November is Veterans Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and reflect on the contributions of the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in conflict. Earlier this month, I made my way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for their 14th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit and Symposium, where I was met by the champion of this effort, Captain Moira G. McGuire, and had an opportunity to explore the art on display. My job there was to give the opening speech about the long history of connection between the arts and the military going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but being surrounded by the incredible artwork produced by the wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed services and their families was the real benefit of being there.

2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Art from the Veteran's Heart

Monday, November 6, 2017

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Nationwide, VA medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in a local creative arts competition that began in January.

“I write because it is healing, and creativity is the opposite of war.” Peter Bourret, AZ, USMC, Gold Medal category - Poetry

UPDATED! Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts for National Arts & Humanities Month

October is National Arts & Humanities Month, a time to celebrate and champion the arts locally and nationally. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The effective arts advocate needs a full quiver of case-making arrows to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic. To help fill your quiver, I offer an updated Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.

Photographer and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron of New Orleans Drops #TruthBombs about Arts Education and Cancer

From my interview with 16-year-old student and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron Washington: “Photography came when I was going through a hard time in my life with cancer. When I started it, it brought me into a different world and into seeing different things with a deeper meaning. It helped me learn how to tell a story and say things without using words. It helped me see where I was in the world. I feel like art is really important because you can express a side of yourself that you normally wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with strangers.”

“To My Fellow Combat Veterans”

I taught theatre in Lee’s Summit, MO for many years and had the privilege to work with many wonderful students. One of them I truly treasured was Richard Gibson, who went on to enlist in the Marines after high school and serve his country with honor. Richard wrote a letter in response to the budget situation facing the Missouri Legislature this year. From his words, I hope all elected officials realize the value of the arts in education. Adequate funding for schools keep arts programs alive. Public investment in arts agencies allows institutions in large cities and rural communities alike to provide arts opportunities for their citizens.

Youth Finding a Voice, Finding a Stage

Excerpted from my interview with Xavier Harvey: “What I’ve noticed being an actor and being involved with Actors’ Shakespeare Project is the tools that art gives you is learning more to express yourself. So when you’re hit with a difficult angle at something and you don’t know how to go about it, you learn different ways to conquer those challenges and all those obstacles. And in my way and where I live and the people that I surround myself, I always think about if I was put in that position again, if I had an artist’s way of thinking then I would have taken these challenges different and made better choices in life.”

Statement on the Arts and the Recovery of Communities After Disasters

Monday, September 11, 2017

Community recovery in the aftermath of disasters—such as the major hurricanes, fires, and floods in August and September—is a crucial challenge, and the arts have a strong role to play. Americans for the Arts calls on local, state, and federal decisionmakers and government agencies—particularly FEMA and the Small Business Administration—to recognize the crucial role of arts and cultural organizations and workers, and to prioritize immediate and streamlined disaster relief assistance so that they may fulfill their role as healing nexus points for affected communities.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company Partners with the Memphis VA Medical Association

Healing through Theatre Practices

Friday, September 1, 2017

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In August 2017, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company began working with Veterans at the Memphis VA Medical Association. This program brings together service Veterans with theatre practitioners to use the plays of Shakespeare in addressing combat-related traumatic and re-integration issues.

Dare County Arts Council - Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project (VWP)

OBX Veterans Week in North Carolina

Friday, September 1, 2017

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The OBX Veterans Week is a collaborative event on the Outer Banks of North Carolina that celebrates Veterans, active-duty military and their families through the arts. Founded in 2013, the event is in its fifth year and is scheduled to take place November 3-12, 2017.  OBX Veterans Week is organized by Dare County Arts Council in Manteo, NC.

Arts Education + Healthcare: A Conversation with Teaching Artist Steven Hazlett

At The Pablove Foundation, we partner with teaching artists who teach children living with cancer the art of photography. As leaders and relationship builders who know their medium, they—along with the students we serve—are truly the heartbeat of our organization. Steven Hazlett, national teaching artist for our Shutterbugs program in New York, talks about his work with Pablove and what it takes to successfully teach the arts to children living with chronic illness.

The Making of Ethereal Bodies 8

Ethereal Bodies 8 is the most recent evolution in a series of sculptures I began in 2008 with Sentient Beings, a civic art installation located in North Hollywood, CA. The final work is a group of eight sculptures that together function as one group, smaller groups, and also as single parts. Through the design process, each individual sculpture really took on its own unique characteristics and quirkiness. The human form is something I explore more fluidly in my studio art practice and it was enjoyable to see how this interest unfolded in an abstract form at a larger than life scale.

National Lieutenant Governors Association and Americans for the Arts Sign State Military and Veterans Arts Initiative

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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On Friday, July 28, the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) and Americans for the Arts signed a first-of-its-kind collaboration supporting the military and their families. The State Military and Veterans Arts Initiative seeks to increase visibility, understanding, and support for the care of persons across the military continuum (to include active duty and reserve service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers) and the role the arts can play in their health and wellness. 

The Arts and Veterans: A Mighty Force

The Fourth of July is a time to honor and reflect on the determination and sacrifices of our service members in making our freedom possible. Over the years, stories have emerged of how veterans across the country come back—and what they give back—after overcoming sometimes decades of struggles with combat and service-related illness and injuries. Many of these veterans say that the arts saved their lives—but in finding their creative voice, they are also enriching our lives too.

A Platform for a Powerful Voice

After my father passed away suddenly, Poetry Out Loud gave me a link to connect to others with. It gave me the empowerment to confidently and unapologetically exist. It let me speak with my own voice. I will never, in my entire life, forget this organization and all of the people who created it. Without it, I solidly feel as though I would still be lost. I would feel as though my thoughts were not worth sharing, that my existence STILL had to be apologized for. I owe everything to Poetry Out Loud and I owe everything to art.

What Keeps Your Mayor Up at Night: Your Mayor’s Priorities Explained

Mayors are on the front line of government. If there is a pothole, constituents don’t call the White House or the Governor’s Mansion; they call City Hall. In other words, the buck stops with mayors to provide services to the residents of their cities. So, what do mayors prioritize and/or worry about? Americans for the Arts’ partner, the National League of Cities, just published their 2017 State of the Cities report which analyzed mayors’ State of the Cities Addresses and catalogued the top issues. I was pleased, but not surprised, to see that “Arts & Culture” was one of the five Economic Development sub-topics.

From Blues to the “Peanutcracker,” Government Support for the Arts Helps Create Access for All

It’s easy to rattle off numbers, but what does this increase in funding really mean? Great projects across the country will now get to continue. Last year, the NEA recommended more than 2,400 grants in nearly 16,000 communities in every congressional district in the country. A review of NEA grants shows that the majority go to small and medium-sized organizations, and the diversity among these grant recipients is unmatched by any other U.S. funder. One grant program, “Challenge America,” is dedicated to reaching underserved communities—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

The Art of Science

Too often, the realms of art and business are separated from one another—dismissed as being two entirely different worlds that don’t belong on the same plane. There are those, however, who see the importance of building bridges between these two realms, and see how these bridges can better the two sides, if they are partnered together in the right way. Roche Tissue Diagnostics (known locally as Ventana Medical Systems, Inc.) in Oro Valley, AZ is one such company that seeks to join the worlds of art and business.

Arts + Youth Living with Cancer: A Thoughtful Approach

Successfully working with children and teens living with cancer and other chronic, serious health issues takes a multi faceted, creative approach. This special population requires flexibility—learning photography in a rigorous out-of-hospital photography program like Pablove Shutterbugs (that has sometimes been compared to a high school level fundamentals course) may seem inconsequential for families who tirelessly care for their children in some of the most challenging life circumstances anyone could ever face. However, research has shown that the arts have the ability to unify and empower, and with cancer patients, the arts can be a critical piece to improving quality of life.

Helping Veterans Build Connections Between Creative Arts Therapy Programs and Their Local Arts Communities Through Telehealth

The past five years have been a renaissance for those of us who incorporate the arts into our work with Veterans. However, as professionals who deeply engage in this work each day, we are aware that gaps remain in the continuum of care provided to Veterans. One such gap is in the transition from clinic to home-based care. Many service members and Veterans receive intensive therapy, including creative arts therapy, following an injury or illness and then return to their own corners of the world, which are disproportionately rural and isolated. 

The Mission of Theater: The Contract of Showtime

There are basic contracts theater makers enter with each other when they start a project. These unwritten rules govern the creation of a piece of theater. We understand that what is shared at a performance is only between those who are there, and although the performance disappears forever once the lights are dimmed, what was shared remains and is carried by the audience. For the veterans who tell their stories through theater, their burdens can become a little lighter, a little more bearable—and that can make the pain of telling worthwhile.

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