Art & Identity: Why We are Interwoven
Art's Footprint on Our Societies and Spirits
Think back to right after you finished college, or whenever the first time you moved out of your parents’ place was. You likely found yourself in a small apartment or room, staring at blank walls, and thinking, “I need to put some posters up, or something.”
Why do we crave that “something” in the space around us? Why do we feel a need to infuse our surroundings with visual offerings of self-expression?
The oversimplified reason is that we found – and continue to find – our very identities through art.
Art speaks to that part of our identity which goes deeper than science, embracing a level of magic and mystery which we may never be able to explain. And yet, even so, there are several researched, proven reasons why art is so critical to our human health and experiences.
Art Connects Us to Our Cultures
From the earliest, rudimentary humans to our vast, globalized world of today, artistic expression unifies us with both our ancestors and with our present-day upbringing. No matter what corner of the world we come from or call home, art immediately evokes a sense of place and of heritage for each of us.
So why have humans relied on art for so long, and why does it persist, even in the age of instant-access technology? Because art is a way to glean where we come from, adding meaning to our own story, cultivating a shared experience, and reminding us that we are part of a broader human narrative.
Art Helps Us Heal
Many of us can probably think of a time when art got us through a rough patch, and that’s no coincidence. That pivotal album which got you through being an awkward or angsty teenager; the movie that still lifts your spirits; the photograph which helps you remember you are not alone – all of these exemplify the healing power of art.
Not only does art heal our spirits, but it also has the power to heal our bodies. Music therapy has been shown to decrease anxiety and help us develop control over pain, and it may even help restore immune system function. Visual art and music intervention have also enabled patients to have better vital signs and sleep quality, less stress, and earlier release from hospital care.
Yes, the same immune system that battles cold and flu symptoms can be improved through music and art. That’s pretty fascinating, not to mention a good reason to sing in the shower, pull out some craft glue, or just spend a day gazing at art you love. It will actually improve your health, both emotionally and physically.
Art Enhances Our Sense of Self Worth
While attending a paint-and-sip night may just seem like modernized team building, the act of creating art is also a highly effective tool for increasing our personal confidence. Art helps people process events and emotions which are often impossible to describe with words alone, like dealing with a serious illness or the loss of a loved one.
Art boosts our sense of self-worth and connection, like this Monument Valley painting
In one study, women battling cancer who engaged in various forms of visual art activities, like painting and making crafts, were able to benefit by focusing on positive life experiences, as well as feeling a sense of community and of achievement. And if you’ve ever gone to a cake decorating class, or done a DIY project at home or with friends, you’ve likely felt some similar feelings.
While our height or our native language is finite in nature, art is always shifting, as does our identity and how we feel about ourselves. So when we’re feeling low and can engage in the act of creation, or simply experience art – especially when we share in that act with someone else – we take back our power. We find our feet again, by inviting another person to understand a vulnerable part of us, while exploring a deeper level of our intuition and self-expression.
Although we may live in a world that spins faster and faster, our connection to art and the reason we continue to support artists is rooted in our very core as humans. Science is just beginning to understand our need for art and why it is vital to our existence. But in the meantime, we can smile a little more as we enjoy our spaces and experiences, knowing art truly does give meaning to our lives.
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