“All art forms are in the service of the greatest of all arts: the art of living.” ~ Bertolt Brecht
In February I attended a workshop on the Arts, Creativity and Wellness, which was very timely given the current focus in education on mental health and well-being. The workshop explored the value of arts experiences for students who might be coping with anxiety, stress and depression and how educators can support them by enabling them to give expression to their feelings and thoughts through the arts. One of the guest speakers pointed out how art empowers us and gives us a voice; he reminded educators that art and life are not separate. He said, “Being grounded in your art is being grounded in life.” Essentially I was left with the message that in order for educators to help students to see themselves as active agents in their own world, as able to change their world through creating art, thereby transforming themselves, then educators must also find balance in their own lives and practise those habits so they are as natural in the classroom as they are in the educators lives.
An educator’s view on health and well-being affects what takes place in the classroom; it can be a vehicle for making space for students to think critically, to ask big questions, to have mindful discussions, to meditate, to care for themselves and each other and cope with stress, and to express their humanity through the arts. During one of my workshops, I had the opportunity to reflect on these ideas as I painted with watercolours to music – something I know I should do more often – and to consider how to make space for these ideas in my classroom. Even children four and younger have innate potential for creative expression and they can experience stress and feel a need to nurture their spirits, to communicate their ideas and feelings when they might not have the words for doing so, and to discover that art can give them the gift of feeling peaceful and calm.
Recently, where I work, there was a celebration of children’s art, a display of children’s creations from kindergarten to grade six. I couldn’t help but think that these children were so lucky to have their creativity nurtured and to have the chance to be an inspiration to each other. The night reminded me that a school can be a community of caring and creativity and a place where there is room for everyone’s ideas and contribution, a place where we all belong. For one night, every child could see each stage of creativity – from what the youngest child is able to do, to what they can look forward to doing in the course of time. The display of art was a testament to the commitment of educators to encourage children to explore techniques, to use their imaginations and to create something real out of something only previously dreamed. In essence the night was a celebration of creativity and wellness.
Here is a small collection of images from that event. Enjoy!