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December 12, 2001

3rd Annual Homewood Studios Community Dialog

~~ What place does art have in promoting wellness or healing in our community? ~~~~ How can we use art techniques to say what we know about our own health? ~~~ Should doctors be encouraged to prescribe art instead of drugs? ~ Can making art cure disease?

For each of the past two years, Homewood Studios has sponsored a community investigation of an important issue. After each of those conversations we were lead by an artist to restate, in another way, those ideas we discovered or recovered.

We invite you to take part in a similar event, this time focusing around the notion of the interplay between art and health. A number of health practitioners from our neighborhood have been invited. Members of the Minnesota Interplay dance company will be present to lead us in story/movement exercises. All we need to complete the evening is you, one of our community members.

Wednesday, December 12 • 6:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. in the Gallery. Everyone welcome.

Twenty-seven community folk - neighbors, Pilot City Health Center staff, Hennepin County health workers - engaged in a lively and thoughtful dialog. Personal stories floated in the air like music. Good-hearted laughter punctuated the evening. We managed, as the German visionary poet Rilke suggested, remain in the question for much of the time. We were less interested in answers than in exploring and reframing our questions:

What is good health? Who is in balance? How much of myself do I show to my doctor? How is it some cultures “wear, drink from, and play on” art as naturally as they breathe while others put art on a pedestal and fear it?

Where do we uncover or discover our longing for the experience of making art? and how do we cover it up again?

If we regard good health or art as a commodity, what kind of a culture results? What are the alternatives to thinking in these terms? Can the idea of “deep democracy” change the way our community thinks about its health and wellness?

Can artists teach us to take more control of our own health by showing us ways to know ourselves better? Is there a risk in seeking this kind of knowledge? Who would be threatened if we learned to paint or write about or to dance our symptoms in the doctor’s office?

Would medical practitioners...nurses, physicians, even administrators...encourage each other to prescribe art as a way of changing the health of our community for the better? What might our community look like if such practices were initiated?

How can we keep these questions active in our community?

One way was to draw and to move, which we did for an hour after the dialog. Maarja Roth from Minnesota Interplay taught us to dismiss our editors and to play with images and movement. We took those questions still floating above our heads in the gallery and gave them a place to reside, in our bodies, right next to our desire for good health and balance.

From Tim Dolan, 4th Precinct Captain:

Though I would very much like to be there, I am not able attend the community dialog. The holiday season is a busy one for police officers...

I doubt you need my two cents on this issue, but I'll give it a shot:

Art is from the soul or self, and expressing one's self is often a fulfilling release that may cure. Critics surely will point to some great artists who had emotional difficulties and worse. However, the question is "did art not help them or were they able to function and survive as long as they did because of their art?" I believe that it helped.

As a cop, I find the vast majority of people involved in the arts are more sensitive and respectful of people and their differences - regardless of age, sex, religion, race or background.

From Paul Erickson, PCHC Physician:

Dear George and Bev,

Fun and thoughtful evening. Great folks you have in your community. Thanks for having me, I enjoyed it.

Two thoughts: If you hear or know of anyone wanting to develop an art therapy program, talk with us at Pilot City. Money and the arts are always an issue. Though I could imagine a grant where artists, say, did painting with a group of folks with depression or something, and actually study it like a treatment protocol. Though I would guess it probably has been done, but maybe not with our patient population demograghics. Can't promise anything. We struggle sometimes just to keep up with things there, and another "thing" may be tough, but if there is a will, often there is a way.

Also, in follow-up to your metaphor, George, of art and health care on a pedestal... Interesting . We put art on a pedestal so we can only "get it" in museums, galleries, or from "real artists" ,"as opposed to recognizing and encouraging the artists in all of us and the ability to make art in the everyday. So too maybe with health /healthcare; we recognize and reward and pay attention to those who are really pretty healthy, or come in, or are compliant with what the systems asks, and we talk down to those with ill health ie, your not keeping your appointment, taking your medications, you smoke, your'e overweight, you don't exercise, etc. instead of awakening the healer within each body and the innate ability of the body/mind to overcome ill-health.