By Emily Hearn
“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
I have heard many lament the disconnect that people feel amongst one another these days, especially as we suffer the social failures of ‘social’ media. I know you’ve heard this all before. Perhaps, like me, you’re tired of hearing about a problem and being offered very few solutions. I wouldn’t be so bold as to propose that I have a catch-all answer to the social and emotional disconnect that many of us feel, but I do have a few ideas. Allow me to pose just one to you today: art.
I believe (and I’m backed up by some pretty compelling evidence!) that engaging in art can help us communicate with each other more effectively and build a strong, lasting understanding within our various relationships.
Single Yellow Lines, 2017, by Charlie Harrison as part of a Created Out of Mind research project.
Engaging in group artistic activities fosters stronger social skills among children. They are given the opportunity to support and be supported by each other, develop more complex empathy, and cultivate friendships with peers. Consider how heart-warming it is to be encouraged by your peers; building this level of trust between children opens the door to more honest and freely-given communication in their future.
Art is a healthy outlet for emotional expression, allowing people of all ages to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a relatively universal way. Art has been found to be an effective method of communication for those who may struggle with speech, such as patients with brain damage or dementia. Although many can’t tell us about what they’re experiencing, they can open a small window for us to peer through. This is a huge opportunity for personal support workers, caregivers, family members, and other members of health care circles to better understand the person.
The fact that we can sense and interpret abstract concepts from an art piece suggests that art is an effective means of expressive communication. Many believe that you can learn more about a person through their work than you can a conversation with them, and I’m inclined to agree. Perhaps what we modern people need to feel better connected to our community is to get to know others – and let them get to know us – through methods that allow more than 280 characters.
A composition of self-portraits by William Utermohlen, the first made in 1967. The following portraits were done from 1996-2000 after his dementia diagnosis.