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Art – doorway to healthier life

Roberts Creek hosted its second annual Arts Festival last weekend and it was truly incredible. Ten local galleries and studios showcased the specialties of more than 150 artists, including glass blowers, painters, puppeteers, musicians, filmmakers and photographers. An estimated 2000 people attended the events, coming from the Sunshine Coast, across the lower mainland and even from as far away as Europe.

With so many world class artists on the bill, it’s not hard to understand the attraction, but it was just amazing to see all the people moving around seamlessly between venues by bicycle, automobile and on the free shuttle bus. As I enjoyed the work on display, I wondered: why do artists pour their heart and soul into their creations and what is it that people get from experiencing these different art forms?

It was simple to understand that each and every one of these artists lives and breathes their art form because of their raw passion – almost the way a successful business owner might run their operations, or a mother might care for her family. This passion defines them, keeping them vibrant and engaged. As for what people actually get from looking at art, studies have linked physical gratification with uplifting art forms.

Professor Semir Zeki is the chair of Neuroaesthetics at the University College London (UCL). He and his team led a study that tracked brain activity of individuals who looked at paintings. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan was used to measure if and where an increase in blood flow occurred while viewing paintings. The study found blood flow increased to the medial orbitofrontal cortex area of the brain, the section often associated with pleasure. Increased blood flow to this area is a similar phenomenon to what people experience when they see somebody they love.

Recently a museum in Pennsylvania began using the unique qualities of art to treat local Alzheimer’s patients. They have observed that by introducing art back into their lives, these patients can remember more and even focus better at times. They concluded that “viewing art provokes calm discussion and even laughter among the patients, for whom total lucidity is a rarity.”

Over the last five years, music therapy has also become more popular across BC. The Canadian Music Therapy Association explains that this form of therapy is used to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music therapy is currently used in treatment of everything from autism to palliative care.

My own mother is an artist who is not afraid to utilize her skills in many forms. She has been a wonderful example to all the children she taught over the years, and continues to inspire creativity in her grandchildren. She plays piano, paints, and even breaks out her iPhone, when it happens to be the only canvas available, and creates beautiful ‘finger paintings’ using a cool little app named ‘Brushes’.

Overall, creating and experiencing art helps bring out a level of relaxation that is difficult to achieve elsewhere. It does so while helping to reduce the stresses of everyday life and adding a little fun and enjoyment along the way. It is an outlet where people can help those with chronic pain or other health conditions by simply expressing themselves and sharing their emotions freely. Thank you, Sunshine Coast, for being an incredible hub of artistic talent and spirit.

Jim Dorey, Editor


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