First Lady Frances Wolf Discusses Healing Through Art During COVID-19

First Lady Frances Wolf discussed using art as tool to heal during the COVID-19 pandemic in a virtual conversation hosted on Facebook. This was the second conversation in a series titled, “The Bigger Picture”, an extension of One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views that hones in on the various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, connecting this extraordinary moment to the broader community.

The full conversation can be found on the One Lens Facebook page.

“Artistic expression has always told the tale of history,” said First Lady Wolf. “And as we have made advancements in medicine and science, we began understanding the effects it has on people. Art has a way of healing us, and it is important that we make this connection because art is for everyone. Whether we consume it or create it, we can all participate in art and reap the benefits.”

Conversation panelists included Claire de Boer, director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine and Center Stage Arts in Health; Dr. Girija Kaimal of Drexel’s Arts Research on Chronic Stress (ARCS); Ceasar Westbrook, One Lens northwest regional ambassador, teacher, and artist in Erie, PA; Emmai Alaquiva, director, photographer, and PA Council on the Arts member; and Ulysses Slaughter, PA Humanities Council‘s senior project director and manager of the Chester Made project. They all shared their perspective on the effects of art therapy on individuals and how art connects people and communities.

De Boer discussed how art is used in a healthcare setting, and explained that it’s a tool for patients, as well as staff.

“Healthcare settings such as Penn State Health address the whole patient, which includes psycho/social/emotional health,” she said. “The arts offer myriad ways to support these areas: relaxing by attending a mandala making workshop, reflecting while listening to soothing live music, or becoming immersed in a painting from the art lending library on the wall of an inpatient room.”

Slaughter described art as a form of storytelling and its ties to communities.

“Stories are the tapestry of a communities truth,” he said. “For better or for worse, the shared stories are the shared lived experience.”

Alaquiva shed light into the ways art has been used to initiate and support social change.

“Art has historically been a vibrant resource to alleviate community pain. It is also a catalyst for social movement. I am a child of hip-hop, an art form that was marginalized, but its beauty has since captivated people throughout the world,” he said. “Art is a channel used to communicate. It is complex, but it is not always meant to stupefy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I want people to embrace those aspects of their lives that they love by creating art at home. It can be something simple. I just want them to know that they can increase their utility (and the utility of the world around them) by way of art’s unparalleled creative and cathartic power.”

Dr. Kaimal discussed the impact of art therapy on people, especially during stressful times.

“Creative arts practices help us manage our overwhelming emotions and remind us of our capacity to imagine a future and take charge of our lives,” she said.

One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views is a statewide virtual photo exhibit organized by the First Lady’s Office in partnership with PHMC, the PA Council on the Arts, and the PA Tourism Office. It celebrates the hard work and commitment of all Pennsylvanians as we continue our fight against COVID-19. The exhibit is now accepting submissions and will remain open through Monday, March 8, 2021. The full exhibit will be released on Friday, March 19, 2021. More information about One Lens can be found on the website.

Information on future virtual conversations for The Bigger Picture and other updates can be found on the One Lens Facebook and Instagram pages.