Healing Through Art: Artman Residents Engage in Self-Discovery with Healing Arts Volunteer
December 18, 2019
When we believe in ourselves and our capabilities, we welcome a world of opportunity for fulfillment and joy. For Healing Arts Volunteer, Susan Rosen, it is art that makes a remarkable difference in helping residents at Artman discover their strengths and become fearless in the process of trying new things.
Susan’s path to Healing Arts began many years ago after she lost a dear friend to cancer. Originally a special education teacher, the passing of her friend prompted Susan to transition her career into hospice and home care. After experiencing some health challenges of her own, Susan began taking art classes in efforts to try something new. “I began gathering art material to just kind of play,” she reflects.
Susan who thought for the majority of her life that she had no artistic ability whatsoever, pushed her doubts aside as she began discovering more and more about herself through art. Months later, when Susan began searching for hospice symposiums online, she discovered that there was a certification available to become a Healing Arts Facilitator and was immediately intrigued.
“I looked up Healing Arts and thought, wow, that’s what I’ve been doing all along without even knowing it, healing myself through art.”
In completing her Healing Arts Facilitator certification, one requirement was to lead a workshop. “I swim at Artman. So, I asked if there was anyone I could talk to about this and they put me in touch with Madeleine.” As Artman’s Director of Community Life, Madeleine welcomed Susan and her volunteer program to the community with open arms. And just like that, Susan began facilitating her remarkably impactful healing arts program with residents at Artman.
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Visiting the community twice each month, Susan engages residents in a wide variety of different art mediums. As she works alongside older adults from Artman’s many neighborhoods, residents experiment with watercolors, acrylics, clay, mosaics, collages, and more. Through her program, Susan gradually sees the benefits of healing arts truly come to life.
No matter what materials I bring, art is always the vehicle for self-compassion and self-discovery.–Healing Arts Facilitator and Volunteer at Artman, Susan Rosen
“One of the biggest things for me about healing arts is how residents learn to appreciate the process, not the outcome. So many people want their art to look like it’s something that should be in a museum and they just want it to be good. I tell them, it’s not supposed to look any certain way. It’s supposed to look the way you do it. There is no right or wrong.”
One of the exciting ways Susan sees healing arts benefit residents at Artman is when they begin to enjoy the moment and let go of their worries about the past or future. “That’s what it’s all about. They’re not thinking about the worries they had before they came, and they’re certainly not thinking about what they have to do when they leave after. They’re right here in the moment. When residents begin to understand that, it’s really exciting to me.”
Susan remembers when one resident was having a hard time with a project, “She said to me, ‘I don’t particularly like this project, Susan, but boy do I feel relaxed while doing it,’” Susan laughs thinking about the time she spends with residents at Artman.
“I have a great love for seniors. I have encountered residents at Artman that are so pure. They just want to be heard, like we all do,” she reflects. Making every moment meaningful, healing arts at Artman prompt residents to bring up cherished memories of their past and give them the opportunity to start engaging conversations with their peers.
“They have so many stories and they want to share them, but when there’s no one to share them with, they become forgotten. When you spark someone’s interest and you do that by putting watercolors or different things all around them, their story comes a little bit more to life to themselves and to each other.”
As residents open up and share their stories, they bring cherished memories to life through art. And for some older adults who find words and language to be a challenge, Susan’s healing arts activities provide opportunities for self-discovery and self-expression that extend beyond words alone.