The Healing Power of the Arts


Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Art in Society program will present its annual Symposium via Zoom on March 12, from 9 am to 12:30 pm. The webinar link and program information will be available after March 5 on the Idyllwild Arts website.

This year’s Symposium on Art and Healing offers reflections on the healing power of art that have arisen directly out of student experiences of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has made our students more aware than ever that we need creative engagement to bring balance and healing to our lives,” explains Art in Society Coordinator Erica Nashan.

Last March, as the seriousness of the coronavirus became clear, three hundred Academy students scattered across the globe, returning to their homes in some three dozen different countries. They completed their lessons for the 2019-2020 school year online and then began 2020-2021 online. About half of them returned to the Idyllwild Arts campus in October, while the other half stayed home. Now, with the virus in retreat—grudgingly—as much as three quarters of the Academy student body may be on campus by April.

Throughout this time of isolation, fear, and uncertainty, Academy students separated from each other by thousands of miles have stayed in touch and given one another solace by sharing their art online. They asked for a Symposium that would articulate what they’ve felt about these experiences, and Art in Society has obliged with a lineup of talented and thoughtful presenters.

A Variety of Presenters

Symposium presenters include Violet Duncan (Plains Cree and Taino from Kehewin Cree Nation) and her husband, Tony Duncan (Apache, Arikara, and Hidatsa). They are practitioners of a number of restorative art forms known to many Native American tribes, including the Hoop Dance.

Music therapist Sabina Barton and dance-movement therapist Christine Little, mother of a current Academy student, will also present. Barton and Little are at the forefront of a growing movement to address through the arts conditions that are traditionally treated with medication.

Erica Nashan points out that “Art therapy is usually associated with visual arts like painting and sculpture, but arts therapy—with an ‘s’—practitioners like Barton and Little are demonstrating the therapeutic power of other arts disciplines.”

Finally, DTLA Proud will present a creative response to the pandemic’s torpedoing of last spring’s L.A. Pride parade in Los Angeles. Downtown Los Angeles residents and DTLA Proud members Scottie Jeanette Madden, Dennis Caasi, and Andrew Arnold have found a new ally in using the arts to soften the edges of bigotry in Rachel Gartside, one of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s lead education practitioners. Gartside, active in combating anti-Muslim prejudice in the UK, is collaborating with DTLA Proud on new ways to bring pride to marginalized peoples through the arts.

We’ve started to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel through the pandemic. But other dark and difficult passages lie ahead. Join Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Symposium on Art and Healing on March 12 to see light shed on how the arts can guide us through those passages.