The Healing Power of the Arts
By Maria Scaros, Executive Director, The Greens at Greenwich
Walking through the MET in NYC, I make my way to my favorite paintings. I feel the need to visit old friends, Van Gogh’s Iris,’ and Sunflowers. Internally I speak to them and apologize for my long absence and stare long enough to feel them breathing ever so slightly along with me. Moving back through the rooms, I walk past numerous paintings without a second look. A guard catches my eye and asks, “Did you see that one there? People pass it by all day long and I wonder why. Take a closer look at it, please.” I did. It was extraordinary. A very “busy” painting of a street somewhere in Vietnam before or after the war. There were people camouflaged within the reds, yellows, and greens covering every part of the canvas. A mother was awkwardly holding her child while looking curiously in a mirror. So many stories. So much activity. The guard was a Vietnam vet. Experiencing the painting brought him comfort. There were stories in that painting. There were stories he knew and never told but needed to share. Irises and Sunflowers with soft shades for me and far away street vendors and vibrant colors for the guard. Art speaks to the spirit, is often subtle and always personal.
It is recorded that around 1030 B.C., the music of a shepherd boy named David, soothed the “savage breast” of King Saul. Music conjures images and memories like no other medium can. Dr. Oliver Sachs, a well known neurologist, was fascinated by how music affected the cortical parts of our brain. Hearing a familiar tune brings us to a time and place vividly stored in our mind. Our first kiss. A special summer. Our wedding song. We do not remember in language. We remember in images which are awakened through art, music, dance, and story.
Watching flamenco in Seville after a painful breakup, I felt the dancer’s passion as she stomped and filled the space with her gorgeous skirt and flowing scarf validating my hurt and my anger more than any words. She “spoke” for me. She knew me. She was me. I was healing through her dance. Soon after my father’s death, I was devastated and felt alone and isolated without him. I was encouraged to dance while visiting an island in Greece. As I circled around and allowed the music to surround me, I felt the presence of my father and somehow my grief evaporated as I danced.
Everyone’s story matters. The telling of it and the hearing it validates us. Our stories define us. We are all “players,” as Shakespeare reminded us. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; … and one man in his time plays many parts…”
Whether we experience the arts passively or actively, we are soothing our soul. Never forget that music, art, dancing, and storytelling are universal healing salves for all of us.
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