More than a decade ago, Proctor experimented with an integrated arts course as a Freshman Seminar. Students were able to experiment in different arts disciplines within the context of self-exploration that sits at the core of our ninth grade wellness curriculum. While our wellness seminars have evolved from this model, maybe we were onto something back then that current research is now reemphasizing: immersion in the arts and improved wellness are inextricably linked.
The mindfulness business is now valued at over $1 billion a year in the United States alone. Apps, teachers, classes, books, videos - there is no shortage of materials available to us as we pursue mindfulness in our lives, the only scarce commodity is time. This scarcity is amplified at boarding school where we rush from class to class to assembly to class to class to lunch to class to afternoon activities to dinner to extra help to study hall and then finally to bed. We can easily find ourselves on a never ending hamster wheel unless we find intentional moments to interweave our own self-care with our passions.
A group of faculty will meet for three hours tomorrow morning to wrestle with our academic schedule in hopes of slowing down and improving community wellness. They will brainstorm and design prototypes that entirely reimagine an academic schedule at Proctor. These evolutions may happen in the near future, but we also have the opportunity within our existing schedule to pursue wellness through the medium of art.
NPR published a story earlier this month highlights the health benefits of creating art. Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University and leading researcher in art therapy notes, “The act of creation can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood.” The article also mentions, “Flexing our creative side can give us a stronger sense of agency — the ability to solve problems by imagining possible solutions.” The piece goes on to mention six reminders for people as they dip their toes into reaping the benefits of creating art - it’s worth the read!
Our individual pursuits of mindfulness within the context of our crazy lives are layered. They evolve as the seasons of our life evolve. Yoga may have been our retreat at one point, or a long run, or quiet meditation, but those opportunities may not fit into the current demands of our life. Understanding and appreciating the role of art as a mindfulness tool for our students (and us) must serve as a central part of our mindfulness toolbox as we move through the depths of winter.
Be sure to check out the beautiful creations of our current exhibiting artists around campus. The individuals behind these masterpieces know full well the wellness benefits of creating and will be eager to share their story with you at this spring's art reception on May 1 from 5:00-7:00 PM. Save the date!
"Visual Languages", an exhibit inspired by MIT’s Media lab professor, Neri Oxman and her Krebs Cycle of Creativity is now on exhibit in the LoveJoy Library. This collection of work by architects, musicians, particle physicists, interior designers, civil engineers, landscape designers, air traffic controllers, boat builders and topographers highlights the intersection of Art, Science, Engineering and Design.
Christopher Spitzmiller, P'90": "Spitzmiller Lamps" (above). Christopher's “Patricia” style handmade designer lamps are presently on display in the Lovejoy Library. Christopher studied with former ceramics instructor, Patrice Martin, while learning woodturning from Jon Siegel, Patrice's husband.
“New Student Art”, now being exhibited in the Brown Dining Hall. This collection highlights the work of Hank Miller '20, Lilly Vezina '20, Ngan Nguyen ‘20, Stella Coulter-Duling '21 and Audrey Ashby '21.
Kait Armstrong, P'23, "A is for Alport Syndrome". This genetics themed alphabet series of original block prints is presently on exhibit in the Brown Dining Hall Gallery. Kait Armstrong grew up in Vermont and has spent the last 20 years living in New Hampshire. She presently works at the Hood Museum in Hanover.