Tag Archives: Healing

From Ghetto to Tourist Attraction

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity

What on earth would make 275,000 tourists a year visit a ‘ghetto’ in Detroit, Michigan?

Welcome to the Heidelberg Project. This two city-block outdoor art installation is in part a political protest, and in greater part a statement on how art can bring a community together to heal its marred identity.

After the 1967 Detroit Riot in which 467 people were injured and 2,000 buildings destroyed, many neighbourhoods never recovered. Decades later, buildings remained burned out and decayed.

In 1986, armed with bright paints and imagination, artist Tyree Guyton began work with local children to transform one such neighbourhood on Heidelberg Street. Abandoned houses became sculptures and vacant lots turned into outdoor galleries. The result became the Heidelberg Project. Here, creativity exploded onto buildings, streets, and sidewalks in colourful paintings, sculptures, and reclaimed community spirit. It also became an implicit criticism of the lack of government efforts.

Today, the community has a renewed sense of pride. Their neighbourhood is recognized as one of the most influential art environments in the world, and is visited by thousands annually. They have created a new vision of themselves, one which affirms their identity as creative overcomers.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Wake Up!

Plastic row houses cram themselves together into a Twinkie-Cream-Puff landscape.

Pale hues blend into the suburban creed of blasée. What do you stand for, you houses? Who are you? Do these questions mean anything to you? Do you even understand them?

Wake up! Take a can of crimson and splash it across your faces! Throw off your mass-produced identity and create one of your own. Come to life, you pastel creatures, before it is too late.

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A Song for a Moment

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity

As a teenager, I volunteered at a nursing home for a number of years. I loved going there, listening to the same old stories over and over, smiling at the hunched over figures parked in wheelchairs at the front desk.  

Most of the residents did nothing all day, just sat and looked with vacant eyes at their surroundings.

There were, however, daily activities for those who didn’t protest at being wheeled or walked to the lounge areas. There were story-readings, crafts, piano playing, even the occasional visit from community children. But one activity stood out to me more than all the others.

Twice a week there was a sing-along. Most of the songs were from an era well before mine. I would watch in awe as the mood in the room changed- hands clapped, heads nodded, smiles broke out. And voices! Oh, to hear these passive, passive people sing softly, then more loudly, a little more, and finally with gusto as the songs erupted.

One lady in particular amazed me. She was sweet and quiet, not much of a stand out. But when she let out her voice, I’m sure heaven opened up. She had been a glamorous professional singer when she was young. Nothing of those days was left, except that powerful, crystal clear voice. When she sang, I no longer saw her as a shadow in the halls, but rather as vibrant, youthful, beautiful- a star! I wished that moment would go on for her.

But, as the songs ended and music faded, she too faded back into her  identity as a slumped figure in the corner, a rag doll placed back in the toy box. How I wished for her to keep the music playing in her mind so that she could keep on singing.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer      

The Coat

The smell of mothballs wrinkles my nose. I blink, turn away, and regain my composure. This is the right box. I remove a yellowing veil, then a round-collared suit jacket, and peer into the bottom of the box. There it is, just as I had remembered it.

I hesitate. Just seeing grandma’s light blue tweed jacket floods my mind with images of the linoleum floor in her kitchen, the rickety chair I stood on to get to the counter, her taking my hand and giving me Georgie, my favourite stuffed bear.

I unfold the coat and put it on, staring at myself in the mirror. For a moment I see her face looking back at me. She is smiling, a tear in her eye.

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Raw Hope

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity

Lynn, Massachusetts is not an easy city to live in if you’re a kid. As a kid here, odds are you’re one of the 76% of children who comes from a low-income family. You are 47% more likely to drop out of school than kids in the rest of the state. And, you could be one of the 6 out of 10 teens who has reported witnessing an act of violence sometime over the past year.

Your life is pretty tough here, so why not join one of the 36 gangs that keeps trying to recruit you? In a gang, you’ll get identity, community, challenge, and power.

You’ll also get a dead-end life of crime.

Then again, you have another option. Raw Art Works in downtown Lynn has 40 art and film groups for children and teens aged 6 to 18. In this safe and structured environment, art therapists, studio artists, and professional film-makers create art together with at-risk youth. Youth discover their desire to create, and gain confidence in their abilities. They find out who they really are, and value what they can contribute.

If you do choose Raw over gang life, you’ll gain identity, community, challenge, and power- without the dead-end.  You’ll likely be one of the 90% of Raw’s high school seniors who has built strong, trusting relationships with peers and art mentors, and is on their way to attended college.

In the darkness, you’ll experience raw hope. 

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer      

Rosemary

Ever since the first time I saw her handing out food to the homeless downtown, I knew there was something different about her. She had a laugh that was too loud, a nervous tic when she smiled. She was the kind of person who would show up to a fancy do with red and green striped knee-highs. She fit right in at the soup kitchen.

There was also something else about her that stood out to me- it was something in the way she served out meals. She was part of the crowd, not standing sanctimoniously above it. She, too, was poor, a misfit from society, one of the hungry masses. As she gave, she too received. From her companions, she was fed with warm greetings, wide smiles, and heart-felt thanks.  

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Art as Transformation

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity

There is some pain that words cannot express- a crash that robs a six-year old of his parents, a child diagnosed with leukemia, years of struggle with mood. No words can console, no words can erase.

For healing to occur, pain must gently be released from the inner soul where it has taken residence. Only then can losses be grieved and solace be sought.

Sometimes creating art can be used to free deeply buried emotions. Images become metaphors for feelings, and symbols represent traumatic events. Colour and shape become the visual voices for re-experiencing profound pain in a way that helps transform terror and despair into healing and hope.

Slowly, over time, and with guidance, images and symbols can be transformed to tell a new story, one beyond the pain, one that includes a renewed passion for life.

Do we make room in our lives for symbolic expression of that which words cannot express?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer      

Lionfish

No predators, lots of prey. Suspended in my element, free from gravity, marking time by the gentle ebb and flow of sunlight and darkness, rhythmically waving delicate fins through invisible resistance yielding to my touch.

                                                                          Effortless.

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Connecting through Music

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity 

Imagine a group of eight people sitting in a circle on hard wooden chairs. The room is deafeningly quiet. Eyes fall to the floor, feet shuffle, backs stiffen.

An older woman whispers to the young girl beside her. The girl looks up, then into the eyes of the older woman. There is a moment of hesitation; slowly, the girl nods.

She takes a breath and a soft melody begins to flow from her lips. Its minor key affect the others as they lift their heads, drawn in by the mood. She sings of autumn leaves falling and the natural decay of the world.

The song ends and all eyes are wide. A young man asks where the melody came from. Another talks of the longing he experienced while the girl sang. A conversation is born about loss and hope. The room fills with conversation and connection.

This scene is based on a case study of a music therapy session in The Handbook of Music Therapy. It demonstrates the power of music to act as a bridge to verbal communication and interpersonal connection, transcending preoccupation of personal pain.

Music can have a profound effect on us at critical times in our lives. What emotions do your favourite songs evoke in you?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer      

November Rain

The notes build higher and higher, lifting me off the ground with them. They carry me further and further, and then… suddenly… release me… floating- I’m floating, suspended in the moment.

I soar, letting the note carry me gently through stillness, vapour, and bliss. I am absorbed, my senses hushed.

Then, gently, it brings me back to myself, where I await, patiently, ready to soak in the souvenir of the treasured moment.

The world around me slowly comes back into focus, the fridge, the cupboards, that splatter on the tile. I’m back from my journey through the realm of timelessness and solitude. Back, but not as I was.

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