What Art Can Cure

When you think of art therapy, you may think of trained art therapists working with people to alleviate stress, work through traumatic experiences, increase cognitive abilities, etc. However, must we always rely on art therapists to help us connect the dots and get centered again? Isn’t a trip to the art museum therapy in itself? It’s true that people with severe cases may need the guidance of a licensed professional. However,  inner conflicts can be resolved in some small way just by looking at the art of everyday. I think the CS Monitor makes a valiant point here:

As beautiful strains of Bach’s “Chaconne” rose from Joshua Bell’s Stradivarius in a Washington, D.C., subway station one morning during rush hour, commuters raced by… Only a handful stopped to listen. Meanwhile, fans can pay over $100 for a ticket to listen to Mr. Bell perform in a concert hall.

The performance, in which Bell’s appearance – but not his playing – was disguised, was an experiment set up by The Washington Post, and Gene Weingarten’s story about it, “Pearls before breakfast,” won a Pulitzer Prize. Over two years later, that free concert still reminds me how much good is unseen, even when it’s right under my nose, or at least in earshot. “Stop and smell the roses” has become a cliché, but this incident made me realize how often I don’t.

Recently the Guardian wrote about the exhibition Madness and Modernity at the Wellcome Collection in London which “examines how art responded to the birth of modern psychiatry in Vienna at the start of the 20th century.” However, in this collection, it was the artists themselves who’d had the nervous breakdowns. One artist repetitively drew birds on a canvas, only to cover them in writing. This might be thought of as a way to contain stress rather than to explore it.

Any way you look at it — whether through stopping to smell the rose that just popped open on your balcony, or sketching frantically on a piece of paper — art can somehow help out.

Josef Karl Radler: Recto (Self-Portrait) 1913

Repetitive release… Josef Karl Radler: Recto (Self-Portrait) 1913: Wellcome Images/Christian M. Nebehay

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