Street art and art therapy

If you walk along the streets of most major cities, you will almost certainly come across graffiti on the walls, pavements and bus shelters.

Not so many years ago, graffiti artists prowled late at night, covertly creating their masterpieces for city folk to see the next day. However, things seem to be changing. Rather than rushing to remove artwork and white-wash walls, local councils are starting to embrace the wonders of street art.

A two-hour walk around the centre of Aberdeen, close to my home in the north east of Scotland, provided me with a wonderful indication of street art at its best. I found an eclectic mix of colour, themes, styles and expressions.

Not only is the art impressive pieces in their own right, but many of the artists have ceased upon the opportunity to paint in public spaces so that they can ‘say something’ about themselves.

Art is, of course, an incredibly enjoyable experience. But it is also a fantastic therapy, particularly for those suffering from mental health issues. Art therapy can give people the opportunity to pause and to work at achieving self-expression, in ways that are not always possible through other forms of communication.

Many of the street artists in Aberdeen have created their work from a therapeutic sense. Many told me they couldn’t turn to anyone to express their thoughts and feelings. However, given the chance to create something in a public space, where it can be seen by the public, helped them to communicate their emotions and feelings.

I was quite intrigued by the work of the street artists in Aberdeen and so decided to put together a little video. I hope you enjoy it.

Please let me know if you have found art therapy useful or if you are working on your own street art project.

Is art becoming more accessible?

There is a wealth of evidence that suggests art has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing. The myriad of arts and culture offerings that have appeared during COVID-19 is testament to that.

Virtual museum tours, art competitions and of course the international rainbow movement has inspired millions of people around the world to get creative. Families around the globe have painted pictures of rainbows, displaying them in windows of their homes.

The pictures of rainbows might not win any major art competition nor will they be lauded by cultural institutions or art ‘experts’ but they do appear to be greatly valued by those who produce them, and by those who appreciate them. I know when I am out for my daily walk, these pictures bring a smile to my face.

Television programmes such as Grayson’s Art Club and Countryfile have responded to the coronavirus lockdown by featuring artworks from their audiences, the latter becoming a firm favourite with viewers.

The annual Scottish Mental Health and Arts Festival (SMAF) announced a special programme of online art for audiences, with opportunities for creative discussion and expression, all on the theme of ‘my experience of isolation’. Creative expression has helped many people with their mental health and anxiety.

Being creative helps us. The World Health Organisation commissioned psychologists to undertake research on the benefits of art. They found that artistic and cultural engagement can reduce medication dependency and help with a wide variety of ailments, from diabetes to fatigue.

I have a friend who started painting pebbles that she finds on the beach. She spends hours in deep meditative concentration, finding the right colours that work on the stones. After varnishing the pebbles, she leaves them on neighbours doorsteps and around her village. The important thing here is that her mental health hugely benefits from a few hours painting, and her sense of satisfaction is incredible; the joy she gets when leaving stones for others to see is immeasurable.

The television programmes that feature art and the various competitions that have sprung up during the pandemic will, hopefully, remain after the virus has finally been put to rest. I sincerely hope that the recent resurgence in the healing powers of art last much longer than a few months. Art is for all, not just those who have studied or for those who are regular exhibitors.

Art is for all to enjoy and we should embrace each creation as a piece of great work in its own right. Whether enjoyment comes from creating or from viewing doesn’t really matter. What is important is a global realisation that art and culture do make a difference to people’s lives.

So hopefully, art will, in the future, become more accessible and less ‘stuffy’. Hopefully, more people will find the benefits of creativity on their health and more people will accept that art doesn’t need to be critiqued nor does it need to be deeply interpreted. It just needs to ‘be’. The acceptance of art as a powerful thing to a greater percentage of the population might become the new normal.

Let me know what you think?