Art can heal.
Last year CultuRunners launched the Healing Arts Initiative as part of the World Health Organization’s series of solidarity events, and MoMA launched Artful Practices for Well-Being, which has integrated trauma awareness into its programming, recognizing individual and collective trauma, many of whom have been exacerbated by COVID-19. One of the first projects was an audio playlist that included collaborations with a neuroscientist, somatic experience practitioner, therapist, psychiatrist, educators, and mindfulness instructors.
This year, to join Healing Arts New York, with a city-wide activation taking place during the United Nations General Assembly, we have added contributions from four extraordinary collaborators: Christophe bailey, head of arts and health at the World Health Organization; Rebecca Amour, creative arts therapist specializing in dance / movement therapy; Sabrina sarro, a certified master social worker; and Atira Tan, specialist in somatic trauma.
Drawing on their lived experiences, professional expertise and interests, they share the means by which art can heal. This does not mean that watching or doing art will cure someone of a physical illness or even relieve mental health symptoms – it is not a substitute for a necessary medication, surgery, vaccination, or treatment plan. But still, art can heal.
Click on the links below to listen to the audio.
The Monet’s water lilies exhibition at MoMA from September 13, 2009 to April 12, 2010
Hear Christopher Bailey reflect on his personal story with Claude Monet Water lilies over several decades.
“By revisiting the Water lilies, in my current state – loss of vision due to glaucoma – I slip into a sense of completeness. Surface, depth and reflection converge, just like the past, the future and the present moment are one. And I realized that I hadn’t lost anything. I don’t feel any anxiety or fear. I’m just enjoying the joy of color and celebrating this present moment. For me, it is the healing power of art.
Ana Mendieta. Nile born. 1984
Live a guided meditation on Ana Mendieta Nile born, directed by Atira Tan.
“What I’ve learned in my nearly two decades of work is that the body matters. And the body is the key and a vital part in healing from trauma…. Our bodies, which are connected to the earth, can be a deep source of resources and support as we learn to access it.
Sam Gilliam. 10/27/69. 1969
Participate in a Guided Color Meditation at Sam Gilliam’s 10/27/69, directed by Sabrina Sarro.
“I want to invite everyone to pay attention and look at the color around us. Colors for which we may not yet have a language. The colors that resonate with us, to really draw on the energy and the language of colors that surround us.
Zilia Sánchez. Antigone. 1970
Participate in somatic exercises inspired by Zilia Sanchéz Antigone, directed by Rebecca Love.
“The mythical character Antigone, the namesake of the play, signifies and validates for me the strength and power of bodies, which come in all shapes, shapes, colors and sizes, do not need to fit into a mold, to look or move a certain way of being beautiful or of expressing oneself.
In the presence of art, we can experience inspiration, wonder and even hope; it can stimulate our imagination, creativity and thinking. Our internal consciousness and our capacity for transformation can develop through experiences with art. There are scientific studies that demonstrate how people benefit from art exposure, as well as social prescribing programs in which doctors prescribe museum visits, art classes, and other creative activities.
For me, in the early stages of trauma recovery, art has helped me communicate what I couldn’t find words for and allowed me to be with the painful reality of trauma in a way that was not consuming me. Living with autoimmune diseases and chronic pain, art has helped me experience my symptoms differently. The emotional outlet that art offers can help alleviate physical sensations, sometimes by simply turning my mind away from them.
Art can harness the healing power within each of us and help bring us closer to each other. Faced with a work of art, we are connected to the artist and to others who have lived it. And connection, to ourselves and to others, is at the heart of art and healing. Healing is not a destination with a fixed timeline or endpoint, but rather a path or multiple paths. Just as every visit with a favorite work of art is a new experience with new perspectives, healing is a journey with possibilities that extend in all directions.