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Art for wellbeing

Lifestyle — Posted 16/01/15

Exploring the link between creativity, wellbeing and enrichment.

The connection between art and its effects on wellbeing has long been upheld in the medical and artistic worlds. But what is it about the processes of creating, painting, playing music, sculpting and the visual arts that help our hearts and minds?

Is it a means to curb stress and anxiety? Is it a form of preventative medicine? Does it allow our minds to clear, refresh and relax? Keen to learn, we spoke with two inspiring individuals who live and breath the arts in their professional and personal lives.

Heidi King is a Music and Visual Arts teacher at John Calvin School in Tasmania, as well as a music educator, tutor and performer at the University of Tasmania.

As a classroom teacher Heidi loves nothing more than “opening doors for her students and encouraging them to come on a journey of discovery into their own dreams and hopes.” Explaining further, Heidi says, “The arts are an incredibly powerful means of communication and self-expression and through them I have seen hopes and dreams given expression. I have seen those struggling with life given a new lease.”

Heidi has seen the transformative power of music and the arts firsthand and believes that community music-making in particular allows for communication and expression far beyond the realms of daily life.  “To see a 70-year-old learning an instrument alongside a 12-year-old in the same ensemble is incredibly moving,” Heidi says. “It brings such joy to everyone involved – myself included.”

It is so important to extend your art and music passions in your personal life as well. Heidi still plays saxophone in the UTAS Wind Orchestra, sings whenever she can and combines her love of the Tasmanian wilderness with a love of photography, frequently heading out into the mountains with her backpack and camera at her side.

The arts have proven to be a stress reliever; Heidi has experienced this phenomenon firsthand.

“Some of the busiest people with the most demanding jobs are members of the music ensembles I work with. Everyone from doctors, high achieving students, emergency nurses, run-off-their-feet teachers, time-poor lawyers, routine-strapped mums and dads to retirees, the socially isolated, and the lonely.”

So what is the best way to introduce and maintain an artistic lifestyle in a fast-paced world, especially with a busy family?

“In my own life I immerse myself in it through listening to Classic FM, a constant companion and great source of new music in our home. Also to open your eyes to the visual beauty all around and surrounding myself with people who share my passions. In my home there are instruments, musical scores, LPs and camera equipment in every available space.”

We also spoke with Melanie Cass, Arts Manager of Art Circle Yooralla in Melbourne. Art Circle is an initiative that trains and promotes artists with and without disabilities. It is a collective that provides skill-based courses that develop the individual’s professional practice in their chosen method. Melanie firmly believes that through age-appropriate, engaging and thought provoking art practice, artists of all abilities gain a positive experience that can improve their mental and physical health.

Melanie explains, “For anyone, feeling disengaged and disenfranchised, not being offered a creative outlet, can lead to mental illness and a lack of wellbeing. Through any given artistic method, people can find a voice to communicate, to grow personally through achieving set goals and become empowered through community engagement and expression.

“I hope never to lose touch and hope art will remain forever in my life – how else will I make sense of and decipher the world around me?”

Remember first and foremost to keep up the conversation, exploration and engagement; question what you see, find the hidden meanings behind lyrics and melodies and keep your inner child alive. Encourage children to learn through exploration, fill your home with art that reflects your personality and how you want to feel and always have a collection of music that will brighten yours or your loved ones’ spirits.

To find out more about Art Circle and their courses visit yooralla.com.au and for information on the University of Tasmania Music and Arts courses head to utas.edu.au

Extra   Looking to explore your creative side? Check out our ideas for 22 things you can learn or try a class at Laneway Learning.
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