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Art Therapy for All


I was a bad week. My hormones were out of whack, the voices in my head were unkind and the world was a gloomy place. A Google Calendar reminder showed up in my inbox that week reminding me to plan my Artist’s Date. My first inclination was to delete the e-mail because I was in a funk after all, but something in my soul yelled out and demanded I follow through with something I had set for myself.

For those of you who don’t know about Artist’s Dates, the concept was created by Julia Cameron the author of the wildly popular book, The Artist’s Way, as a way to tap into your creativity and keep your artistic juices flowing. In many ways, it is a form of art therapy to get you out of the house and exploring the creativity around you. When I read her book years ago, I made a point to search for new and interesting things to do that didn’t cost a mortgage payment. I went to free lectures on art, watched Sufis spin, took pictures of odd places and objects and went to free art gallery events.

I recently started up again with Artist’s Dates when my life was feeling dusty and repetitive and needed a good cleansing. I set a reminder on my Google Calendar each week to choose an Artist’s Date and keep it on my radar. So the week things were going “pear shaped” as a friend of mine says, happened to include Free Friday at the Portland Art Museum.

I had no excuse not to go so I packed my work bag lightly that morning and headed to the museum after work. I had already seen the exhibit on the display from the previous month’s free night so I wandered around to a different part of the building I had never explored. I looked at 70 year of Portland photography, stared at Mike Kelley’s unusual works of light and video and even gazed upon Monet’s Water Lilies. The colors and textures of the exhibits and the calm of the museum melted my stress away and I left feeling lighter and happier. It was my own form of art therapy and I didn’t have to spend hours at in the therapist’s chair or fork over lots of money to enjoy culture.

Since I can’t paint or draw (see: 5th grade clown painting), I turn to others interpretation of the world through art and color to create my own version of art therapy. Art therapy is used by therapists in a variety ways to help adults and children express themselves, explore self-identification and create perspective. Art therapy has no rules or structure can be verbal, non-verbal, a physical object, a piece of music or whatever else that happens to be created at that moment. When I was at the museum, Francis Bacon’s painting Figure Writing Reflected in a Mirror made me stop in my tracks as I took in the warped image, the colors and the feeling. Something about the picture moved me and allowed me to exhale.

Many of my friends are artists and writers who use art therapy to blow off steam and channel their emotions into a creative outlet. If their work of art turns into a blob of anger, they either give it away or sell it or just put on the side of road for some to pick up and put on their mantle.

What about you? How do YOU use art therapy to give your life some perspective and that types of mediums do you use? Do you go to the museum or create your own works of art? How do you find inexpensive or free forms of art therapy in your community?


About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

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