Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Art as an act of healing

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by Jayson King, RN, BS, NCTMB, HNB-BC

In 1985, Nancy Azara, a New York based artist, introduced me to the idea of “Art as an Act of Healing” at a workshop in Duluth.

At the time, I was the classic struggling artist living in Minneapolis – working part-time jobs to get by and support my art, trying to forge relationships with galleries, and creating art in a shared loft space in Northeast Minneapolis with a group called Art Attack.

Nancy’s idea – that art is an act of healing – filled an essential part of my art education. During late-night discussions with other students at art school, we decided art is created purely as an extension of the ego. Through Nancy’s week long intensive workshop, including daily guided meditations and circle discussions, it dawned on me that this wasn’t my ego speaking on the canvas, but it was an expression of my own healing journey.

Since that workshop, I’ve continued to look at all forms of art through this “Art as an Act of Healing” lens. What does the artist’s statement and expression tell me about their own healing journey? What can I learn about healing communities?

There are many examples that show how art serves healing and community:

  • a Somali immigrant whose work is a link to her culture of origin and a way to support herself
  • an artist who rediscovers her passion to paint after a cancer diagnosis
  • a recent exhibition of seminal work from the 1980s at the Walker Art Center which revealed how intensely AIDS has affected all our lives.

This holiday season, my family went to see a variety show featuring Kevin Kling with Dan Chouinard and the Brass Messengers at the Guthrie Theater. Through their graceful humor, stories and music, the artists reminded me once again of the power of art to mirror culture, overcome personal obstacles and differences, and exemplify hope and light.

Managing the Art of Healing program at the Penny George Institute allows me to come full circle with my life art experience. The Art of Healing program is designed to answer the question: “How can creative expression heal?”

Through inpatient art care, hospital-wide exhibitions and community outreach, the Art of Healing program can use art not only as a personal healing force but also as a bridge between clinically-based healing, the holistic nature of all healing, and healing of the greater community.

My invitation to you: the next time you see a piece of visual art, listen to a piece of music, or watch a play or film take a moment to witness it as an act of healing.

One thought on “Art as an act of healing

  1. Just to say I am impressed with what you are creating. If you go to: you will find a short video of my experience in mixing art and healing. There too are reviews of my book, Thresholds: Connecting Body and Soul after Brain Injury, Lawrence Pray, Ruder Finn Press, New York, 2012. I would like to learn more about this program, and hope the video and book can perhaps be helpful.

    Lawrence Pray
    2523 Portland Avenue
    Apt. 2207
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

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