• Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Remember that in the darkest of times they turned to artists

ByLucy Peett

Apr 6, 2020

In a world full of destruction, we long to create. As our normal freedoms dwindle, people are growing scared—and yet we find ourselves turning inward, flexing our creative muscles in new ways. Producing and listening to music, directing and watching films, musing upon and doing paintings. It seems that in the darkest times, we turn to and turn into artists. This is because art, both created and observed, gives us pleasure in dire times and beyond.

Of course, it would be thoughtless to approach this subject with blind optimism. Theatres have put their props away. Exhibitions have been abandoned. Films have postponed release dates. The Edinburgh Fringe is cancelled. For many, there are far more pressing issues than the appreciation of art, like putting food on the table or paying rent. But we can help. If you have the wherewithal, buy prints and postcards from artists, rent ballets from independents online, or donate to art charities. And when all this is over, remember the importance of the arts in today’s world.

Art is a medium for communication and has been since the beginning of human life. But it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that it was recognised as a therapeutic discipline. In 1941, an artist named Adrian Hill coined the phrase ‘Art Therapy’. Suffering from tuberculosis, Hill passed the time by drawing in his hospital bed. Finding that this provided a genuine aid to his recovery, Hill proposed hanging art on hospital walls—a revolutionary idea for his time. Adrian Hill showed the world that in nursing the mind through art, the body can heal.

Let’s fast-forward to April 2020. If this current moment were a noise, it would be a low hum, from a fat hornet that we can hear but not see. This metaphorical hornet, full of its spritely hum, makes us feel anxious and it won’t eff off. It isn’t going anywhere, not in three weeks, perhaps not even for six months. But maybe the hornet’s buzz can be softened or even drowned out. How you ask? Well, we need to productively distract ourselves from all the noise. To be productively distracted, we must be mindful and engaged and do things that make us feel good. Productive distractions stand in stark contrast to unproductive distractions, like drinking a whole bottle of wine or spending a full day watching YouTube clickbait. The best productive distractions often come through the arts (or baking banana bread, apparently).

Recently, social media is abounding with recommendations—from Spotify playlists that make us smile to films that require a box of Kleenex man-size (awkward). By watching, playing and creating, we can feel that little bit more mobile. Fiction and art can take us to worlds even more impossible than the one that we find ourselves in now. So too, fiction and art don’t demand rationality. They force us to step outside of ourselves, even for a short while, and we should find some solace in that.

Ineloquently put, art is very important. And it’s high time for this fact to be recognised by schools and the government. These institutions need to stop playing the sciences and the arts off one another because both are important. Now more than ever, we need art and science. Enjoyment of art is not to the detriment of enjoyment of science, and vice versa. Both disciplines sustain and inspire one another, and I think Leonardo Da Vinci would agree.

It’s time to tune out the buzz with art. Because as Hill recognised, the health of the body depends in part on the health of the mind.

Image: Ruby and Peter Skitterians via Pixabay