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Art can heal people of all ages.
Image: Rowan El Shimi via Flickr CC

Did you know that November marks a significant time of year in the art world? Of course there is no better month than others to delight in arts from around the world, but November in particular is dedicated to making people consider art in a different way.

November is “Arts & Health Month,” a time for artists, art enthusiasts, health experts and activists to expand an ongoing dialogue about how these two seemingly contrary fields overlap. Founded by the Global Alliance for Arts & Health, the month of November is dedicated to spreading awareness about how the arts impact health and vice versa, to discuss health issues openly, and to learn from each other’s experiences.

According to the Global Alliance for Arts & Health, “Arts & Health Month is an opportunity for organizations and individuals worldwide to promote the integration of the arts –including literary, performing, and visual arts and design – into a wide variety of healthcare and community settings for therapeutic, educational, and expressive purposes.” In short, it’s a time to embrace the arts as more than pure entertainment; it’s a month to think critically about how the arts can improve your health and wellbeing, as well as of those around you.

The Global Alliance for Arts & Health explains that art has the ability to “contribute to what it means to be human, especially in times of illness,” which is why it is so important to expand the dialogue surrounding art’s healing abilities. Perhaps you’ve heard about arts therapy programs before. Maybe you know someone who has benefitted from it, or maybe you’ve even overcome trauma with the help of painting, music, or journal writing. Many educational institutions are embracing the arts as part of improving student health, and more and more programs that are dedicated to approaching healthcare through creative, artistic means are cropping up worldwide.

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Image: Ranken Jordan via Flickr CC

The arts have healed and aided countless trauma survivors; utilizing art therapy programs has allowed for the empowerment of patients and at-risk individuals. At Harvard University for example, “the arts have collectively provided students with an outlet for creative self-expression, allowing them to explore issues of mental health in safe spaces and with a freedom of expression that allows for emotional catharsis,” explains student Alan R. Xie.

Physical and mental trauma survivor Laura Sharpe has also personally benefitted from art therapy. She explains, It was through art that I found my strength to move forward and relearn the everyday movements I had since lost. Art gave me peace and healing in a time of extreme pain, discomfort and bereavement,” of embracing art as part of her recovery process.

Sharpe has since started her own organization, a non-profit group called Artists for Trauma, which supports victims of physical trauma and helps in their recovery. Sharpe is just one of many arts and health activists who knows first hand the power art has to heal.

Though every person’s relationship with the arts and health is profoundly unique, it’s still worth considering: How does art and health intersect in your life?