Friday, December 7, 2012

Why Art is Awesome

This summer, Kiwanis Camp counselors read Double Take by Kevin Michael Connolly before beginning their sessions at camp. I recently finished reading it, and it got me thinking about art and the important role it can have in people's lives. In his book, Connolly, who was born without legs, illustrates the reactions his condition elicits in others and the way he decided to react to them in turn. Throughout his entire life, Connolly has been subjected to the assuming stares of strangers all around the world and discovered art as a way of dealing with those unwanted reactions. For him, photography became not only a means of artistic expression but also a sort of self-indulgent therapy.

I love art in its various forms partly because, aside from the aesthetic appeal, art allows one to say what sometimes just can't be put into words. Art is powerful and personal, and it has a way of communicating that is beyond verbal expression. Connolly could have told people, “No matter where I am in the world, people everywhere look at me the same way,” but those words don't have the same weight as his photos, which express the same thing.

Some people seem to come alive when they are able to express themselves through art. I posted a couple of pictures of art done by artists with disabilities on the MHKC Facebook page because I thought the motives behind various people's art was interesting. For example, Neil Marcus, a performing and visual artist with cerebral palsy, uses his various art forms to express movement in a way his body won't allow him. Jessy Park, another artist I posted about, was diagnosed with autism. She was nonverbal, but she was able to express herself through her vibrant architectural paintings. Others, like Peter Longstaff, a foot painter, show through art their ability to overcome physical obstacles to create something beautiful and meaningful.

At Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, a portion of camp time is dedicated to art projects, including tie dyeing t-shirts, putting on performances, and making wish boats—handmade boats with campers' wishes written on them that are ceremoniously sent across the pond at the end of camp. Campers also work on putting together camper journals, in which they can use both words and pictures to communicate their camp experience with their families. These art projects are very individualized and are the least structured activities at MHKC, giving campers (and counselors) the necessary freedom to express themselves.

Drawing from a camper journal

The arts also serve as excellent and fun teaching tools. For example, visual arts like painting and drawing reinforce motor skills. Written arts such as poetry give people a chance to share their feelings without restriction while improving writing and vocabulary skills. Performing arts also improve motor skills and can provide a social setting where people can interact with one another, build problem solving skills, and learn about working together as a team. The arts allow people of all abilities to create something of their own and take pride in both the process and the product of creation. They can also serve as a way to rid oneself of negative emotions or express positive ones. Plus, art is something people of all backgrounds and experiences can relate to and share with one another. Art connects us.

What are your experiences with art, either in creating it or experiencing it secondhand? Do you use some form of art as a means of expression or communication? Share your art with us! Post a photo of your art or share a poem or whatever else you can think of on our Facebook page.

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