I grew up in a three-bedroom, semi-detached house in Leeds, England. Eighteen years in the small box room at the front of the house and I loved it. My room was my place for experimentation and creation. At some point during those eighteen years, every surface in that room got covered with something: drawings, paintings, scribbles, photos, posters, album covers. Most memorable was the five foot silhouette of a man’s face, cut from cork flooring tiles, and stuck to the wall. Ask my friends I grew up with 30 years ago and they’ll probably remember it. Creativity served a fundamental and important role in my life. Consciously and subconsciously it was a way for me to express myself, understand myself and find myself. It was my private, safe world where I could convey hidden messages and stories. My drawings, paintings and collages were my secret code but also the beginnings of me telling the world who I was.
The benefits of creative endeavor
Creativity was my friend, my solace and my enlightenment. Beyond anecdotes like mine, decades of research have shown links between creativity and happiness, positivity, physical health, psychological well-being, resilience, enduring relationships, achievement and satisfaction. The list goes on.
Since there are multiple forms and expressions of creativity let’s focus on artistic endeavor and its benefits. In children, art and similar forms of creative expression have been shown to aid language development, emotional growth, motor skills, visual learning, socialization, problem solving and critical thinking. In relation to aging, there are positive correlations between artistic practice and disease prevention, healing, self esteem and social engagement.
Beyond individual returns, there are numerous societal and economic advantages to arts initiatives and projects. A comprehensive 2002 study by Michelle Reeves at the Arts Council UK identified a slew of benefits from job creation, urban renewal, increased tourism and better exam results to reduced vandalism, anti-social behavior, crime, bullying and littering. Other studies have replicated similar findings. Take, for example, a 2012 evaluation by Professor Trudi Cooper and her colleagues from the Edith Cowan University and the Department of Indigenous Affairs into the Wirnda Barna Aboriginal Art Centerin Mount Magnet, Western Australia.
The Center, located 550km north of Perth, serves six communities and was opened in 2010. In a context of ‘normalized racism, social marginalization of Aboriginal people and few local employment opportunities’ (Cooper et al. 2012), the center provides a place for established artists to meet daily, paint, showcase and sell their work and to mentor younger, emerging artists. The evaluation by Cooper and her colleagues found that the center had achieved many positive outcomes for individuals and communities.
More specifically, it has contributed to the following:
– Artists feeling they’ve achieved new found respect.
– Resolution of long standing family feuds.
– Enhanced self esteem and a sense of mastery amongst the artists.
– Improvements in community health and well-being.
– An increase in tourism.
How can you realize the benefits of creative endeavor for yourself?
First you need to carve out downtime. A recent article in Scientific American by Ferris Jabr pulls together some of the research into the advantages of downtime. Ferris sums up the importance of taking a break beautifully:
“Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self.”
So set aside 48 minutes, the average length of a New Yorker’s commute, and do something creative with the time.
Then contact us to share your submission. Send us a photo or video of your creative output and write a few words about yourself, what you did with your 48 minutes, the meaning behind your piece and how the 48 minutes benefitted you.
We’ll treat your work with the utmost respect and we’ll feature select works in the blog.