How Art Heals
By Anna Butler & Arthur Peirce
The healing and transformative power of art is recognised by researchers and scientists around the world. In fact, some studies have even shown that simply visiting an art gallery or a museum can greatly improve a person’s wellbeing, increase positive emotions, and even enhance brain functions. Producing art has also been known to combat stress, depression, and anxiety. As such, some doctors in the UK have taken to “social prescribing” in that they prescribe social, cultural, or creative activities instead of medication as a way to boost their patients’ wellbeing. Prominent medical schools in the USA have begun to require university students to study art as a means to improve their communication, better their observational skills, and develop further awareness of their cognitive biases.
“The medical profession has come a long way in recognizing the healing benefits of art. My hope is that someday the arts will be considered as significant in everyone’s lives as breathing fresh air, eating clean foods, and performing physical exercise.”
It is of note that some practice art as a means of promoting wellness in both themselves and in others. Many do so in an effort to alleviate the burden of certain psychological challenges such as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For those experiencing personal struggles, engaging with art can address loneliness and a wide range of mental health concerns. Art has the power to create profound positive mental benefits for so many people. It is an unfortunate truth, however, that not everyone has the chance to create or access art materials regularly.
Specifically in Zambia, art education in public schools often takes a back seat to more standard subjects such as mathematics and English. Perhaps this is due to the education system itself and its heavy emphasis on passing national benchmark examinations. Or maybe the fact that many schools do not have the means to offer enough art supplies to their overcrowded classrooms. Whatever the reasons, we continue to observe a lack of focus on creative arts curriculum in Zambia’s formal education sector.
As covered in our previous blog, this year has been exceptionally challenging for students in Zambia as most - apart from those preparing for exams - have been out of school since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, Modzi art programs have become even more critical for students’ non-formal learning. We have continued to emphasize that art education has the potential to create holistic education opportunities both in and out of the classroom. In an effort to improve our students’ overall wellbeing as well as keep them learning while out of school, we have been offering various art activities in drawing, painting, crafts, and even music recording. These art education workshops, led by one of Modzi’s very first graduates, create a safe space where children can reflect and express themselves freely.
Science supports the idea that art is good for us, our minds, and overall public health in so many ways. Modzi recognizes the importance of supporting youth art initiatives and so continues to incorporate them into our educational programs. Whether it is through creating safe spaces or providing supplies, we encourage our students’ psychosocial and emotional learning via artistic expression. Resilient and innovative, they continue to inspire us with their creativity and their unique ideas including the use of recycled materials in their projects. We strongly believe in art’s ability to connect ideas, boost self-esteem, and heal.
“Art surrounds life, all people, in every location, sometimes without us being aware of it. Art has existed as long as man has and it remains a huge part of our collective human history. In culture, art helps to shape our ideas. It can also provide us with an increase in self-awareness and a deeper understanding of human emotions.”
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