Looking at the Restorative Power of Art
Historically, art has been an outlet for artists to express their emotions, trials and hardships. The ancient Greeks valued performance art for its ability to release tension and stress during times of war or economic hardship; writers like Edgar Allen Poe used poetry to romanticize the dark side of emotions; and contemporary artists create stunning visual or musical pieces to share their life experience with others.
While art has always been a form of expression for the artist, its value to the general public can be powerful enough to save or change a life.
“There’s more and more scientific proof that art therapy is good for your physical health,” vice-president of Médecins Francophones du Canada, Hélène Boyer said in an interview. “It increases our level of cortisol and our level of serotonin. We secrete hormones when we visit a museum and these hormones are responsible for our well-being.”
Eileen Richardson of DiaDan Holdings Ltd. gained a deeper understanding of the healing power of art while studying photography in art college. The school allowed her use college equipment while on trips to the Caribbean in order to improve her skills.
A Harvard Health Publishing study has even shown the ability to create art after mentally debilitating diseases such as dementia have affected speech. By extension, conclusions have been drawn connecting the creation of visual art with reducing stress and fostering relaxation for people hospitalized or bed-ridden as a result of illness. The study showed that creating art can relieve stress, aid communication, and even help slow cognitive decline.
“It’s the process, not the product,” said Megan Carleton in a 2017 interview, an art therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). “Once people engage, they often realize they are having fun and the time passes faster.
Carleton says art also has an important role for people in difficult times, including facing death. She says working with an art therapist can give them a way to express themselves in a safe environment which can help them get to the next stage and be more at peace.
Art helps enhance the lives of so many people whether suffering from physical or emotional pain. In the end, there is a benefit for both the artist creating the work and for those who enjoy it.