The Highmark Caring Place
Statement of Art Process and Experience Anne Cameron Cutri of Art For Well-being Everywhere
I recently co-facilitated an art class with Kristie Nosich at the Caring Place. After a discussion of time limitations and participant’s experience, as well as the best time in their program to introduce an adult art class, we came up with an interesting augmentation to an existing art technique. Pour painting is a process by which you mix acrylic paint with a pour medium to make it more fluid. Because they only had an hour, we had to come up with a directive that was interesting artistically, and pertinent to their grief journey. I came up with a wet-on-wet technique where they could, first, express their current emotional experience and then transcend it with the second step of using a more uplifting or contrasting color symbol. Kristie provided a pre-printed card of the colors I was offering which included; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, black and white. She asked them first to name the feelings they were having. Then to match those feelings with a color that represented them.
Pour painting is unpredictable, just like one’s emotions during the grieving process. I reminded them of this during the demonstration and also that if the initial pour didn’t seem to express what they were feeling then they could use the craft stick to scrape and pull the paint to better express themselves. Some chose to do the second step, some did not.
What I love about facilitating art classes with the intent of healing and wellness, is to see the countenance of participants change. Many adults have never explored art making at all, so the very thought of creating can be frightening. They are already vulnerable, with the stressors of their situation, so I make sure to thank them ahead of time for trusting me. As soon as they begin, and discover the joy of color and creation, stress is lifted and joy rises up. When I asked some of the participants about their work, one person saw an image within her pour and transcended her emotions, changing the abstract into a representation of a cardinal in flight. This reminded her of what her loved one enjoyed. I asked another participant what the symbol of eyeglasses represented and she said, “I see but I don’t see”. Still another participant, choosing only black and white look at her finished pour, and said, “Yep, that is pretty much how I feel”. At that point she had not added a transcending symbol. I was then heartened to
discover that she added a heart. Many were delighted with the outcome of the initial pour and they didn’t want to do anything more to it.
It is exciting to see participants sublimate negative feelings and transcend them with a positive symbol, if only for a brief time. The beauty of visual art is that it is a witness to the transcended experience, so when the creator looks at his or her creation again, it has a healing affect all over. I have had the same experience in my own art. From the thought of “Wow I can’t believe I did that” to it actually bringing me to tears at a crucial moment in my journey. This is why I believe in art-making for well-being, stress relief, to facilitate change in a personal narrative, to be psychologically restorative, and encourage self-care and sanctuary from everyday stress, and promote cognitive and emotional exploration in a non-stigmatizing setting. Not to mention it is just fun!