Monday, August 31, 2009

How Does Art Heal?

It doesn’t take much probing to discover that students see benefits that exceed merely taking art classes. When I began to feature art lessons at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, the reception was remarkable. Adults as well children soon began to reap the benefits of being able to spend a few hours each week in a positive and encouraging atmosphere and produce artwork of which they were proud. One adult student remarked, “I didn’t even know I had talent. Colleen brings out the best in you.”

Another said, “These art classes are better than therapy.” A father recently said, “My son has a new sense of confidence and self esteem since he has taken art classes here.
The theraputic effects of art are well known. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process of art is both healing and life-enhancing.

How does art heal? Scientific studies tell us that art heals by changing a person's physiology and attitude. The body's physiology changes from one of stress to one of deep relaxation, from one of fear to one of creativity and inspiration. Art puts a person in a different brain wave pattern; art affects a person's autonomic nervous system, their hormonal balance and their brain neurotransmitters.

Art affects every cell in the body instantly to create a healing physiology that changes the immune system and blood flow to all the organs. Art also immediately change a person's perceptions of their world. They change attitude, emotional state, and pain perception. It creates hope and positivism and helps people cope with difficulties. It transforms a person's outlook and way of being in the world.

In fact it is now known by neurophysiologists that art, prayer, and healing all come from the same source in the body, they all are associated with similar brain wave patterns, mind body changes and they all are deeply connected in feeling and meaning. Art, prayer, and healing all take us into our inner world, the world of imagery and emotion, of visions and feelings. This journey inward into what used to be called the spirit or soul and is now called the mind, is deeply healing. For healing comes to us from within, our own healing resources are freed to allow our immune system to operate optimally and that is always how we heal. This is the contemporary version of freeing our healing energies and is now recognized to be crucial to healing. We go inward on The Creative Spiral together through art.

Colleen Sgroi, Teaching Artist

Art Smart

Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?

The answer isn’t clear. Much has been written in recent years about the Mozart effect – how having small children listen to Mozert raises their IQs
Now a new, on-going study by leading cognitive neuroscientists across the United States is trying to precisely determine the relationship between brain development and participation in music, dance and the visual arts.

According to research led by Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga of the University of California at Santa Barbara, children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other subject areas.
Although such studies are fascinating I am leary of how such studies are being used to make a case for why their needs to be more arts in the schools or why government should invest in the arts period. Are we as a society saying, unless something produces economic growth or increases the IQ it has no value?

“Not everything has a practical utility, but maybe it’s experientially valuable,” said Elliot Eisner, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. “Learning through the arts promotes the idea that there is more than one solution to a problem, or more than one answer to a question.”

May I suggest that there are other kinds of values that can not be measured?
One day a mother called to sign her son up for art classes. She told me he was just diagnosed with dyslexia and has been struggling in school but he loves art. She asked if I would tell the drawing teacher about his diagnosis so he can be aware. The next day I talked to my drawing teacher and found out he too was dyslexic. When I called the mother and told her she began to cry. Today this young boy is flourishing into an amazing young artist with new self-esteem that will help him through all of life.

How can one measure that?

Colleen Sgroi is the owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at 12 Andover Road in Billerica, MA. For more information go to

A Tree is Known by its Fruit

"The art of living, laughing and loving." This is my artist mission statement. It is on my business card, my brochure and my web site. My goal is not only to have living, laughing and loving reflected in my art work but it is also to find the art of of living, laughing and loving reflected in my life. Are they one in the same? Can we truly separate who we are from what we do? Is it true that a tree is known by its fruit? My brother shared a story with me a few years back that gave me new insight into these questions.

My brother was a housing inspector in the Boston area. One day while inside a Dorchester residence, he noticed one of my prints on the wall. While chatting with the woman tenant, he mentioned that the print on the wall was one of my sisters’ pieces. Surprised and excited, that she was actually meeting the artist’s brother, she told him a story of an unexpected blessing in regards to the art work. The woman as it turned out, had a son, now grown, who was autistic. Meal time was always a challenging time for her. Her son typically made a big production out of eating, half the time refusing food altogether. Then, one day, while shopping, she saw this beautiful print of a fruit bowl that she just loved and thought it would look excellent in her dinning room, so she purchased it and hung it that very day. That evening at dinner she was prepared for her usual struggle in getting her son to eat, except this time he sat down and without taking his eyes off the new art on the wall, he ate his whole meal without incident. The next meal was the same, he sat, he looked, he ate. The woman went on to tell my brother that , from that point on, they took the print everywhere they went and her son would eat peacefully at each and every meal.

This story is a constant reminder to me that when I create my art, the power of that love in me is present in the very piece I am creating, even if its just a bowl of fruit.
What fruits are you known for?

Colleen Sgroi has a Gallery and Art Class center at 12 Andover Road in Billerica,MA.