Art As Therapy

Episode 125 · May 15th, 2020 · 29 mins 10 secs

About this Episode

As we record this episode, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much we don’t know—what the situation means in our own lives and in the world at large, how long it will last and what we will endure before it is over. How can our art practices help us through this difficult and anxious time? Today our podcast includes thoughts from two art therapists, Mimma Della Cagnoletta and Barbara Bagan, who generously shared their ideas about this topic via email.

Artists are often said to be highly sensitive people. Being vulnerable, introspective, thoughtful about what we experience are all personality traits that help bring meaning and emotion to our work. But those same qualities can also cause us to be more unsettled than others around us. Are there also experiences we have as artists that can be helpful to us now?

Artists are no strangers to uncertainty. We face it in the creative process every time we’re in the studio. This uncertainty is not comparable to the terrifying influence of the pandemic, of course. But we’ve been training our thoughts and emotions, often for years, to deal with the unknown. In fact, a characteristic of creative mindset is ability to deal with ambiguities and situations that are not clear-cut. Many of us are wired to adapt, and to bring our responses to difficult times into our work.

As difficult as it may be, studies show that there are long-term benefits to facing and working through our emotions during trauma. These benefits include enhanced creativity and other kinds of personal growth. As Mimma Della Cagnoletta put it, “we know that making art is resilience in itself and affirms human capacity to deal with ‘the brutality of life.’”

To quote Barbara Bagan, "Art plays a variety of therapeutic roles. Throughout history when going through intense experiences, especially where there are anxieties around mortality and what life really means, people turn to art. They turn to making art and beholding art. Accepting this current situation, even though we do not like it and rejuvenating ourselves in whatever ways we are comfortable with and creating again are what artists do."

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