The Health Benefits of Art

Creating and interpreting art can be intimidating to the average person, but science proves you don’t to have possess artistic talent to reap the numerous health benefits art has to offer. Whether your masterpiece is worthy of hanging in a museum or on the fridge, art gives you the freedom to release your inhibitions and try something new without the fear of falling short.

Viewing and producing art can have significant positive impacts on the mind and body. From reducing stress to improving quality of life, art is a powerful health tool that is helping people of all ages worldwide.

Art Reduces Stress

Making and viewing art can reduce cortisone levels that contribute to stress. A 2016 study analyzed saliva samples of 39 healthy adults to test cortisol levels before and after 45 minutes of art making. The results indicated that creating art led to a significant lowering of cortisol levels. Participants also stated that they felt more relaxed and free of constraints after the art-making session and were more eager to continue producing art in the future.

If you don’t feel comfortable making art on your own, or prefer guidelines to help with creation, break out your colored pencils and try an “anti-stress” adult coloring book. Adult coloring books have become a popular trend in recent years and are proven to be therapeutic and relaxing to the mind. Similar to meditation, coloring allows you to focus on one thing at a time; this helps to alleviate anxiety.

Art is Good for the Mind

Because art is not an exact science like math, people can learn to develop creative problem-solving skills when creating art. Even medical professionals rely on art to sharpen their minds. “Enhancing Observational Skills” is a museum-based program that is now required class for first year Yale medical students. The idea is to teach students how to observe and see clearly in order to later care for their patients in the best way possible.

Creating art can also improve self-esteem. When you finish a project, you experience a sense of accomplishment and happiness. This applies in the art arena as well. When completing a work of art, these same feelings occur and can lead to heightened dopamine levels.

Art Can Improve Quality of Life

Art has been proven to be a powerful therapeutic tool. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are most commonly subjected to art therapy as a way to improve focus and communication skills that are affected by the diseases. Creating art stimulates the senses and can even assist in the recollection of seemingly dormant memories.

Art is also a popular therapy for cancer patients. In a study, children who were going through painful cancer procedures and were exposed to art therapy ultimately expressed more positive and collaborative behavior. Adults and children alike who go through traumatic experiences often internalize the pain they feel as a result. Art and art therapy allows people to express and release the experiences that are too agonizing to verbalize.

How The Food World Inspired A New Market For Art

If you’ve ever strolled past your local park, coffee shop or house of worship and noticed boxes full of heirloom carrots, beets and radishes, then you’ve likely witnessed the bounties of the CSA, otherwise known as community-supported agriculture. It’s easy to join: Members need only sign up to receive regular shares of fresh produce, straight from local farms. If you’re already a member of one, you’re probably hooked, and if you aren’t a member, chances are you’ve tried to befriend someone who is (after all, that’s a lot of potentially leftover kale we’re talking about). That’s because the benefits are universal: Farmers maintain a steady client base and can unload whatever seasonal goods they’ve harvested in a single sweep, and shareholders can bypass grocery store lines and perhaps even expand their culinary repertoire through new — and unprecedented for some — arrivals with each pickup.

Now, a group in Minnesota has decided to put a different spin on this popular food-distribution model. Only its version has little, if anything, to do with food. Organizers are calling it Community Supported Art, and it deals with artworks, not artichokes.

The 2010 launch of this alternative CSA program had two inspirations driving it: a need to connect the local arts community with people who would want to support it, and an appreciation for how the food scene was already managing a similar need. “We had the same conversation over and over again, which went something like, ‘We should do something like a CSA, we should do something like a CSA,’” says Laura Zabel, executive director for the St. Paul-based Springboard for the Arts. “Finally, it became, ‘Well, maybe we should just do that.’”

Zabel credits the traditional CSA model not only for its practical logistics, such as its self-sustaining abilities, but also for the values of connection and process it’s able to instill within a community. “It goes beyond the transaction of ‘You pay this, you get this,’” she explains. “CSAs build direct relationships between farmers and consumers, help people understand the process that goes into growing their foods and build community among the shareholders — and these are all elements that we tried to adopt.”

After the success of the first year, Springboard for the Arts wanted to help plant other CSAs from coast to coast. In 2014, the organization launched Creative Exchange, a national platform that provides a toolkit to folks interested in starting a similar CSA in their own cities. The toolkit has helped build CSAs in more than 50 cities nationwide, and this year will see an increase in that number: Iowa City, Charleston and Appleton, Wisconsin, will begin programs this fall.

While anyone can start a CSA within his or her community, Creative Exchange cautions against one person trying to carry the entire load. “It doesn’t have to be a large, complicated program, but it’s a pretty heavy lift for one person to do on their own,” says Zabel. As such, an array of art collectives, galleries and schools are often the ones to lead the cause, though a group of art-loving friends is just as encouraged to get involved.

Shareholders buy into the CSA at the beginning of a season, and several variables are left up to the community, including the number of artist-shareholder gatherings (dubbed pick-up parties), the number of featured artists and the price of a share, which depends on the market’s size and demands. As an example, what might be $300 per season for nine pieces of art in Minneapolis translates to $400 for a season of 18 artworks in Denver. “That, for me, has been one of the most exciting parts — to see an idea adapted in a way that works from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Miami, and from Brooklyn to Denver,” says Zabel. “These communities of different sizes, geographies and cultures can take the basic structure and idea and figure out how to make it authentic and meaningful for the people who live where they live.”

Still, Creative Exchange asks those looking to launch a CSA to adhere to three core values: (1) to call it Community Supported Art to help people understand what it is, (2) to use the program to build a real relationship with their local community and (3) to use the money collected to pay the artists.

Those artists and their works can vary drastically between and within cities, as well. For instance, the program run by Pittsburgh’s New Hazlett Theater is made up entirely of performance artists, so the artwork provided is all experience-based. Conversely, a program in Michigan is comprised of only craft artists. Zabel is particularly fond of the pieces that incorporate the program’s initial impetus: food. One example is the “Power to the Pollinator” prayer flags created by Minneapolis-based artist and farmer Amy Rice. “I feel like the people who bought them were already familiar with the pollinator issue,” says Rice. “Those people got to hang them in their gardens or homes, so hopefully there was some awareness that I helped with through art.”

While it’s rare that shareholders are disappointed in the artwork they receive, Creative Exchange reverts to the original model’s framework to navigate such situations. “Like community-supported agriculture, we try to set up the expectation at the beginning that this is about an experience and trying new things,” says Zabel. “It’s less about ‘this much money for this many objects’ as it is about ‘this much money for this shared, collective experience.’”

The benefits for the artists can be just as rich, thanks to an opportunity to develop long-lasting client relationships, to be unburdened by thoughts of what may or may not sell and to receive some reassurance that their work will be recognized. “As an artist, I make a lot of art, and I never really know where it’s going to end up,” says Rice. “It’s nice to go into a project knowing that it has a home.”

GULF OF MEXICO BELOW THE BOAT WOOD CHART

Most of us have been out on the open water. Few of us know what lies beneath the surface. These Below the Boat Wood Charts use bathymetric charts — the underwater equivalent of topographic maps — and laser-cut, hand-colored sheets of Baltic birch to create stunningly detailed recreations of the sea floor/lake bed in dozens of different locations, covering everywhere from the waters surrounding Sanibel Island to off the coast of the Gulf. Makes an ideal Father’s Day gift for any sea-faring dad, especially since it’s the only nautical-themed decoration that’s acceptable two miles or more inland.

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Incredible Dali Sculpture Comes to Life!

The Department of Astounding Hyperrealism has previously featured the jaw-dropping work of Los Angeles-based Japanese hyperrealist sculptor Kazuhiro Tsuji because of his astonishingly lifelike bust of Abraham Lincoln. Today our minds have been blown once again by another of Tsuji’s sculptures, portraits of artist Salvador Dalí. Silicone sculpted, mixed media busts are larger than life – much like Dali seemed to be in real life – and so incredibly detailed that we keep waiting for them to blink or wink or maybe even speak.

Visits Kazuhiro Tsuji’s website to check out more of his phenomenal sculptures and click here for a brief video interview with Tsuji about his process.

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The Bigger Picture, Fanciful Depictions of the Area Outside the Margins of Iconic Album Covers

In The Bigger Picture, web design company Aptitude imagines what exists just outside the margins of some of popular music’s most iconic covers, from Michael Jackson to Adele.

In this digital age, buying an album has become less about buying a physical package to buying a digital version out of convenience. So in honour of a once coveted industry standard, we take a look at some of the most iconic album covers over the years and put our own spin on them by revealing ‘the bigger picture’.

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