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

Leave a comment

Nurturing creativity

113722870.PaintedHandsBy Jayson King RN, BS, NCTMB, HNB-BC

Creating art was an essential part of my youth. If I wasn’t taking or painting pictures, I was writing stories. Art school was an obvious choice for me. In 1979, I graduated from college in Moorhead, Minn. with a double major in fine arts and art education.

Then I moved to Minneapolis, and spent the next ten years creating art, working with galleries and exhibition spaces, and, yes, sometimes being the “starving artist.”

A few family complications later, and I found that I had to get a “real job,” or at least find a regular source of income. Healing and wellness had also always been a deep interest so I began to “reschool” in wellness and healing arts.

I have continued to write and create art even with less time to put a pen to a page or a brush to a canvas. But I have learned that creativity does not always need to be about creating art. It can be used in all aspects of life. Art and creativity can even be an act of wellness and healing.

When faced with any “blank canvas” in life, meaning any endeavor with an unknown outcome, you can follow these steps to nurture your creativity:
1. Be present. I have adapted an exercise called, “Morning Pages,” from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” Cameron recommends doing three pages of long-hand, stream-of-conciousness writing first thing in the morning. She says, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. … They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. [They] provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

You don’t have to write three full pages. Begin by writing for five to 10 minutes. It can help you feel anchored and face the day with clarity.

2. Do creative work in the morning. The creative impulse is fresher and clearer in the morning.

3. Forget about talent. What will the outcome be? Will anyone like it? Those are questions that can suppress the creative spirit. Try to start a creative process without detailed outcomes.

4. Stay open. There really are no dumb ideas. Go ahead and make a mistake. Often mistakes lead to new breakthroughs.

5. Keep it simple. Leave the details for later. Trust that they will fall into place. The creative spark is a time for simplicity. Most painters start with a broad simple sketch on the blank canvas before any paint is used.

6. Manage anxiety. Anxiety can be the subject of paintings and writing but it is hard to create when the artist is in a state of anxiety. Regular yoga, breath work and meditation can help with anxiety reduction.

7. Be brave. All of the above suggestions need a bit of bravery. Forget what others think.

8. Have fun. The creative process is closely aligned with having fun. Joy is a creative state of mind.

There is no such thing as “being more creative.” You already are creative. The creative spark lives in all of us and can be nurtured with intentional practice. And anyone on a healing journey can use a brave creative spirit, allowing room for new solutions and broadening the breadth of discovery.

Jayson King RN, BS, NCTMB, HNB-BC, is the Art of Healing program manger and a learning and Development specialist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

For more information on art and healing, read LiveWell blog entry, “Art as an act of healing.”

Leave a comment

Art of Healing exhibits in February and March

ArtArt is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

You can view the following exhibits on the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus for the remainder of February and March:

  • The late Dr. André Bruwer’s X-rays of nature are on display at the Penny George Institute’s outpatient clinic – Abbott Northwestern. Over five decades, his passionate pursuit of X-ray art (pictured right) resulted in a stunning collection of images showcasing the unseen delicacy of the natural world. He called his X-ray images skiagraphs. The words skia and graph come from the Greek words for “shadow drawing.”
  • The paintings of Douglas Ross are on display in the Wasie Building lower level gallery, outside the Livewell Fitness Center. Ross changed the direction of  his work dramatically after his retirement from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he taught sculpture and drawing for 32 years. Upon moving from Nebraska to Minnesota, he embarked on a series of paintings inspired by the landscape of northern Minnesota. The focus of the majority of his paintings is the trees, rocks and water that form the dramatic landscape along the north shore of Lake Superior.

The displays are part of the Penny George Institute’s Art of Healing Program, which provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.

1 Comment

Art as an act of healing

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.