Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
On Wednesday I had a meeting with the executive director of the Curtis Children’s Justice Center (CJC) to discuss the logistics regarding the Feb. 8 unveiling of the artwork I did for them. As we talked the director said something that I’ve been thinking about ever since. She said, and I wish I could remember her exact words, that a local arts association had offered to list the artwork at the CJC and that the director hadn’t thought a whole lot about a connection between an organization dealing with child abuse and the local arts scene. She went on to say we do have to learn to “see the helpers that are all around us”.
My predominate thought has been “Of course there’s a connection between organizations that work with children, especially abused or ill children, and the local arts! How could there not be?” In my mind a children’s center has original art on their walls for the exact same reason they’d employ a therapy dog; for the care and comfort it may provide.
Children’s centers with multiple works of fine art for therapeutic purposes can end up with public art collections almost without trying. Any collection of public art that serves a community function, whether to reflect a communities history (like the Vancouver Land Bridge), to visually represent a city (like the Salmon Run Bell Tower and Glockenspiel in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park) or to comfort a segment of a community’s population (like the artwork in the CJC) is a part of the “local arts scene” by virtue of its existence in a particular place. Whether an organization like the CJC, because of its kind of work, allows their collection to be listed in an art association’s public announcement is separate issue.
Art for the purposes of therapeutic comfort – or for relaxation, which is a form of comfort – is nothing new. In fact it is one of the “helpers all around us” that most of us don’t notice. Did you have a rough day at the office? Celebrating a birthday? You might seek comfort or relaxation in any of the following; listening to music, watching a movie, reading a novel, attending a play at the theater, seeing art work in a gallery or museum, going to a comedy/storytelling event, or going dancing. Chances are good that most of us have done these things, gotten comfort/relaxation from them without thinking “I’m doing this for therapeutic reasons” or even noticing that it elevated a mood. And you probably didn’t think “I’m participating in the local arts scene” while you were tapping your toe in tune with the jazz band.
Public art and even the local arts scene can easily become part of the background of our lives, an unsung part of our ability to go on and live well.
Yes indeed there are helpers all around us and isn’t it nice that sometimes they are noticed?
Here are some sketchbook pages I did as I thought about all of this. (The ‘feed the good wolves’ note written on the bottom of one of the sketchbook pages refers to this post)