Art - an opportunity for reflection... / by Jeannine Cook

I had donated artwork to The Art Connection in Boston (http://www.theartconnection.org/) so that they can find nonprofits who cannot afford art for their walls but need the uplifting messages art can provide. Their spring/summer newsletter states, "Art offers an opportunity for reflection and inspiration. It can change a mood, increase morale, stimulate dialogue and build community." As I reflected on that statement, I realised that I frequently see the truth of it in the world all around me, as I am sure many others do too.

It does not take the present economic woes to underline the real value placed by people of all works of life in art - be they seasoned collectors or simply lovers of art. There have been enough studies done now to show the role art can play in helping people under stress, in hospital environments, for example. Years ago, a large painting of mine was placed on a wall opposite the elevator door on the ICU floor of the local hospital. One day, a dear friend phoned to say that when he had got to that floor one early morning of family drama, he saw my painting as he got out of the elevator. "I can't tell you how much it helped calm me down," he confided. I was deeply moved.

Coincidentally, a solo exhibition of my work, A Sense of Place, has just opened at the same Southeast Georgia Health System Outpatient Care Center Art Gallery in Brunswick, Georgia. Again, I am told, this gallery is constantly the scene of someone studying the art on display, collecting themselves and finding a short respite from the stresses usually connected with hospital scenes. By selecting watercolours, silverpoint and graphite drawings of local areas of beauty and serenity, I hope to remind the viewers of the wider world beyond. (Moon over the Marshes - watercolour)

The role of art as stimulating dialogue is always visible in communities where art has become an important ingredient in daily life. I read recently how many towns in the Rust Belt region are turning to art to try and revitalise their downtown areas which are so abandoned. Artists are like the yeast in bread, helping stimulate activities in empty buildings which cry out for new life and fresh starts. There is always something to discuss, too, when art is created or on display. Even the simple act of standing in front of a piece of art or listening to music or theatre - whatever - alongside a stranger seems to give one licence to address that person and start a dialogue. As a matter of fact, I met one of my now-dearest friends because I said something to her as we stood in front of a painting in a museum and we started talking. That's the magic of art! It empowers us all and takes us out of ourselves.