By Rick McVicar
While a wide variety of research studies can be found on how art impacts health and recovery, spiritual art appears to be missing from the mix.
A lengthy Internet search revealed a glaring gap in research and programs. A few exceptions could be found, however.
For instance, Mercy and Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif. operates an Art and Spirituality Center, according to its website, DignityHealth.org. They have found that art helps in “relieving anxiety and decreasing the perception of pain.” The hospital program encourages creativity for recovery from physical as well as emotional distress.
The Art and Spirituality Center provides for art making, music and creative writing. An Art Cart delivers art-making material to patients’ rooms while a choir is available to sing songs at patients' bedsides. The arts are used to encourage “reflection and relaxation,” according to the website.
While the blending of spiritual art and wellness programs may be few, the creation of faith-based art is thriving.
In the past few years, the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art has opened in St. Louis. According to a website hosted by Saint Louis University, the facility is the first interfaith religious art museum. A coming attraction in February will be the exhibit, “Double Vision: Art from Jesuit University Collections.” The museum is currently closed until the exhibit opens.
Orthodox expressions of Christian art are also experiencing a resurgence, according to icon carver Jonathan Pageau. He describes his art and the current wave of icon making in a YouTube video, “Sacred Art in Secular Terms.”
Pageau was a part of the secular contemporary art scene until he became disillusioned by ridiculous prices paid for low quality pieces of art. He then moved from Canada to Africa to work with artisans creating beautiful pieces of furniture.
"To live there really grounded my vision and helped inform what I perceived what art could be," Pageau notes.
In time, he moved back to Canada and turned to making Orthodox Christian icons as an expression of his faith.
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