Months ago, I was invited to take part in a panel discussion on creativity and mental health at The Leonardo Museum here in Salt Lake City. The Leonardo is known for its innovative educational and community programming, and its mission to get patrons not only appreciating art, but making it, too.
The Leo After Hours program is a free, open-forum series and I was so honored to be invited. Fortunately, it seemed like my training and experience fit in nicely with the other panel members — including Melissa Lopez-Larson, a research psychiatrist and professor at the university, and Jann Haworth, an artist and the museum’s creative director.
The organizers even positioned the art therapist between the psychiatrist and the artist. It was a very familiar theoretical place for me to be!
There were a few problems with the venue (we got bumped from the auditorium upstairs to the open cafe area downstairs) but it made for cozy conversation with around 150 attendees. The audience had great questions, too, including things like:
- What do we know about the brain and creativity?
- What (if any) is the connection between mental illness and creativity?
- Can creativity help those who suffer from mental health issues?
- What about all those famous people who suffer from emotional issues?
- What is happening when you are “in the zone?” (I was happy to refer them to one of my favorite books, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.)
- How do substances — including medications — alter someone’s creativity?
- And lots of other great questions!
It’s always a pleasure to talk about what I do with people who are interested in learning about it. Who knows? Maybe some kind of art therapy collaboration can be created with the good people at the museum, or the university, or one of the other passionate community members who attended.
It was a good opportunity to remember the reasons I pursued the study of art therapy in the first place. I believe in the power of creativity, the painful reality of mental illness, and the healing that happens at their intersection.