An Account of the Healing Power of Art
Art healing the artist. Art healing the space. Art healing the audience.
by Abby Langford
The artist, one man who wished to form a place full of art and a place to create, a public art space, within a forgotten and fragile building within a peaceful place that did not exist and built on rooms that would not last. This artist, who calls himself BMike, found peace within a similar space, the Florida Projects in the Bywater district of New Orleans, and filled in with art. Some coin it graffiti; others coin it street art. However, it is art nonetheless. It is art. It is culture. His art is his method of communicating his story, his beliefs and how his experiences or background has shaped those beliefs. Art is up to interpretation, which causes it to be ideal for communicating beliefs because the attentive audience can interpret for themselves the value of the beliefs, therefore the value of the story within their own story. On the surface, looking solely at the images he created with spray paint, his story seems to be a tribute to the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, but by looking beneath the elements of the design of the portrait, BMike hoped that his audience would be able to grasp that by communicating these beliefs from within the walls of an abandoned apartment complex, he was calling on them to grasp what it means to just be through observing his expression which is a poem about life and time. He called the poem ProjectBE. However, this space, a place full of art where he could create, did not fulfill his wish because it could not be opened to the public. So, he fought and lost, but then he continued fighting by finding a new space in order to reach out to a larger audience, one comprised of not only those willing to break the law in order to view what it means to BMike to just be but also those unwilling to make that sacrifice.
The space, an abandoned apartment complex, was bursting with all forms of art communicating to the audience the artists’ stories and through communicating that story, demonstrating a culture present within our nation denounced by the state. While BMike was fighting to find another space fit to become a place full of art and a place to create, a public art space, he stumbled upon DeGaulle Manor in the Algiers section of New Orleans. This complex, built in 1967, has been compared to the city’s most infamous Housing Projects because of its reputation of being a location of high-crime and poverty. However, after Hurricane Katrina hit the area, the walls of the apartments became canvases on which artists could communicate their stories. Some call it vandalism. I call it art. The complex exchanged hands and was renovated multiple times, but for the past few years, it has been vacant. Consequently, more and more artists have claimed the walls of the complex as their canvas. One of those artists is BMike. He found peace within the space in the same way that he found peace at the Florida Projects. Within DeGaulle Manor, he began to recreate some of the portraits that were a part of ProjectBE and to create new portraits, expanding on his story. One day, as he was creating this art, one of the board members of the foundation that currently owns the property, Bill Thomas caught him in the act. However, instead of denouncing the act as a crime, his open ears heard his story, and he was enchanted with both what he saw and what he heard. He was able to convince the rest of the board to open the site temporarily to the public, and dozens of artists were then invited to capture their stories on the walls of the complex. The space had become a public art space full of art where any and all could create. BMike named this elaboration, on ProjectBE, ExhibitBE because his poem finally had an audience with whom to be communicated.
The audience, a group of people, all different but, hopefully, all present with ears open to the high quantity and quality or stories drenching them from the moment they set eyes upon the remains of DeGaulle Manor. Those within the audience were of all different colors, with distinctive values, all different shapes, with distinctive levels of intellectual and emotional depth, all different lines, with distinctive connections through with communities are formed, and all different textures, which is an outward demonstration of our past, where we have been worn down and where our lives have been untouched by the negative. All of those within the audience, including myself, were on separate levels of the scales of the elements of design, or in this case, a created being. I am white and value creativeness, inquisitiveness, and selflessness. I am of average height and weight, but I have the gift of being able to relate with the successes and struggles of others, who are of a higher and lower intellectual or emotional level. I am a point not connected to thousands of others but instead connected to a substantially smaller number by a much thicker line. I, like many others, are worn down in some places. My texture is the roughest when it comes to being certain in the connections I form with people for I am always wary of whether or not the connection goes both ways. I am the least worn down when it comes to exploring new ideas and embracing other’s beliefs. So, even if each of those within the audience were all present with ears open to the stories of what the artists believe it means to just be, they all left the exhibit with a different interpretation because they are each of different elements.
To heal means to alleviate a person in anguish or distress and to correct an undesirable situation. Art heals its creator, or artist, by allowing them a means to communicate their anguish or distress or their undesirable situation with others, therefore not necessarily, alleviating that negative emotion or correcting that negative state but instead, allowing the artist to communicate in a way with which they are the most comfortable. Art heals its home, or space, by filling it with an attraction that others wish to see, which causes the space to be reinvigorated with people. The introduction of people into a space corrects the undesirable situation of that place being void of action left only with the memories of past occupants. Those people then all are a part of a community, one of a group of people who have all heard the same story of a particular artist. While I was viewing the exhibit, a car show was also taking place within the parking lot of the complex. The artist commented on the beauty of the irony that those rare cars were sitting where only burnt cars would have sat. Art heals its pupils, or audience, by giving them a story to interpret, which may be used to alleviate their anguish or distress. And, if the artist placed their entire being into their creation, fully communicated their story without reservations, and if the audience viewed the piece with open ears actively listening to the story of the artist, each member of the audience would be healed through their ability to interpret the story.