EQ Building For Artists & Advocates

Having spent many years engaged in artistic endeavors, from music, dance and theater to comedy and visual arts, as both a participant and teacher, I know firsthand the power the arts have to release us from the small spaces we get stuck—whether an emotion, a situation, or a preconceived idea of ourselves. Given the opportunity to create, we can see beyond our perceived limitations, beyond the lines we believe define and separate us, beyond labels and fears and misunderstandings, to a place of ‘bigness’, where anything is possible. Making art, of any kind, gets us out of our heads, giving us a kind of freedom from the constraints of our everyday lives. In that space we can begin to create for ourselves an expanded sense of self, of ‘other’, of possibility, outside the reach of judgment. We can begin to make meaning even where we can’t make sense.

According to Ping Ho, MA, MPH, the Founding Director of UCLArts & Healing at UCLA, the arts have proven to be an ideal social emotional learning tool for early adolescents; whether visual art mediums like drawing, painting, photography, film, and electronic and digital graphics and media, performing arts like theatre, dance/movement, performance art, spoken word, or comedy, and creative writing like prose, poetry, lyrics, playwriting, or screenwriting. The National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (2005) asserts that “By reflecting on unconscious themes that emerge, the arts can heighten self-awareness, which allows for behavior change.” This is supported by a growing body of noteworthy scientific studies, a larger body of case studies, and observations by experts which have demonstrated consistently that, used appropriately, the arts can improve depression, stress, self-esteem, substance abuse, child and adolescent behavior and development, immune function, emotional trauma, and future risk of violence. Fran Smith of Edutopia concurs, saying “in addition to improving cognitive ability, critical thinking and verbal skills, involvement in the arts is associated with improved “motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.”

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