Healing through art and community connection

Healing through art and community connection

My reflections in this issue stem from helping with the Art on the Hill trail in Bristol. At last year’s event, it was wonderful to feel such a buzz in the community. After Covid and lockdowns and all the ensuing fallout, perhaps some of the excitement came from the relief that we could all be part of something cultural and communal again. We are still facing a lot of unrest in the world, and it’s crucial we seek balancing, healing, regulating experiences in our lives.

Perhaps it is my imagination, but it seems the urge for people to create has been rising. We even have art classes on prescription now, which is fantastic. Humans have been creating since we first began walking the Earth. It’s deep in our bones. It is a way of expressing our emotions, experiences and the individual way we perceive the world. It’s in our DNA to make and appreciate it.

Any involvement with art and creativity has a positive biological effect. It helps to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and stimulates the creation of new neurons, in turn boosting concentration and focus, lowering anxiety levels and depression and creating a feeling of happiness – a huge benefit for mental and physical health.

Making art more public adds great value to the cultural vitality of a community. It encourages artistic exploration and can help people think about art in new ways across generations. It creates excitement and focus – a bit like community art therapy. Because art is a visual language, it can connect people across a diverse spectrum. It’s a way of sharing our unique experiences and wisdom with no barriers.

Creativity is at the centre of our nature. Some people have been led to believe they are not creative, either through their education or upbringing, but it’s not true. It’s our superpower. Let’s celebrate and embrace this. And it isn’t just about painting. I can’t sum it up better than Helena Bonham Carter:

I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art. It’s about following our creative urges on any level, and there lies a great force for healing.

Creativity and wellness go together. Art can wake us up to ourselves and enliven our senses. We often neglect some senses in favour of others. Some cultures around the world pay good attention to their senses. For example, Middle Eastern cultures use perfume for rituals and celebrations. This is more than just applying a scent; it’s a way of expressing and connecting with others. Trays of scents are offered to guests as a gesture of goodwill, and creating these perfumes is an art in itself. Which of your senses do you favour or neglect?

When you look at artwork, first study it up close, then back away and look at the entire piece from a distance. Imagine yourself in the image – this is where using all your senses comes in. What do you see? If it is a seascape, can you hear the crashing waves? Taste the salty water? Can you touch the sand or smell the fish from a boat? It’s great to do this with children too.

Creativity is unavoidable. Each moment we are alive, we can choose to consciously create something good and useful. Of course, that’s not always easy, but small steps make big changes. What artists do is only one form of creativity. Whether you are running your floristry or plumbing business or entertaining your children, you are creating moments on your life canvas.

Coming back to my original musings about art trails, they serve the whole community on a collective level. They enable a wider audience for artists, cover a broad spectrum of visual art, encourage social inclusion. Even if you are doing art as a hobby, don’t be afraid to be on an art trail: they are free, they are fun, and they are a healthy communal intervention in these challenging times. When people connect, create, commune and cooperate, it moves our nervous systems into a calm, joyful, optimistic energy, and that is a contagion of happiness worth spreading. 


Lizzie Mae Smith is a yoga teacher, homeopath, student of Ayurveda, writer, grandmother and artist. She loves supporting and guiding people to their full creative potential. On Instagram @lizzie_mae_smith

Published in issue 90. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

Call to Creativity

Creativity, wellness and happiness go together. You can have all three by getting involved with the Art on the Hill (AOTH) art trail, which takes place over the weekend of 5 and 6 October in the Windmill Hill and Victoria Park area of Bristol. AOTH has opened the call for artists from 1 June until 31 July. Most importantly, you don’t have to be a professional artist to register. Art on the Hill encourages local artists and craftspeople to show their work either in their own homes or a communal space. You could be a budding photographer, knitter, painter, collage artist or any other form of creative and be able to take part in this exciting art trail. We are very pleased to be sponsored this year by Bristol’s favourite estate agent, Boardwalk, which is absolutely not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill estate agents with its innovative, caring commitment to enabling creativity within communities and inspiring the next generation of creatives.

Find out more and register at artonthehill.org.uk
All the information you need is on the Take Part page.

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