HEART OF THE ARTIST PROGRAM
Visual artists, musicians, writers and performers bring their inner worlds and deepest personal experiences into their work of exploring and creating meaning. Far too many, though, also experience stress, trauma and distress, sometimes resulting in long-term mental ill-health, destructive patterns of addiction and death by suicide.
Heart of the Artist’s (HOTA) purpose is to provide self-care, support skills and peer support groups to the arts community, grounded in best practices for mental health and suicide prevention. It brings a focus on the positive aspects of creativity, the unique needs as well as the resources artists can provide to themselves and others, and the special challenges of careers/vocations in the arts.
Heart of the Artist program involves seminars, workshops, books and peer-driven support groups to assist artists with mental and emotional challenges, while fostering creative inquiry into the intersection of the arts, personal struggle and distress and meaning-making. It is a solution-centered program for personal and social change that is life- and artist-affirming, that is driven by the concept of artists as the core agents of meaning-making and culture, and that engages skills and expertise for mental health management and suicide prevention in a unique growth-centered model.
Planned HOTA programs include facilitated peer support groups, trainings, confidential online meetings and groups focusing on building successful arts careers, managing stress and mood symptoms and dealing with intensity including thoughts of suicide. Heart of the Artist programs will connect stakeholders to core listening and support skills development as well through Growing Through training for college age youth, postsecondary education faculty and staff, professional and community organizations.
HEART OF THE ARTIST BACKGROUND
Artists are crucial to any vibrant society, playing multiple cultural roles as meaning-creators, entertainers, community conveners. Artists shape and tell the stories of our many peoples, connect us to the human journey on both the individual and the societal level. They envision possibilities, challenge assumptions and help connect with many aspects of our minds. They also use themselves- their bodies, minds and psyches—in ways that are unique and distinct from the everyday. People who identify as artists or cultural workers, and/or are deeply drawn to the creative process, often experience struggle as well, perhaps more so than in any other field of human endeavor.
Are the enhanced struggles with depression, anxiety or suicide among artists a result of our creative spirits? Is the nature and process of creative work inextricably entwined with suffering? Or are the arts simply the most natural outlet for people of deep feeling and intellect, and therefore the actions that we are bound to be enthusiastic about or engage in? These questions have been posed throughout the ages in various forms. The purpose of HOTA is not to answer them but inquire into and explore them. The questions that HOTA specifically looks to answer are, rather fully practical.
What can artists do to support ourselves and each other along the journey?
As a community of creatives, how can we develop practices like self-care, peer support and growth planning to enhance our work and lives?
What can we do to reduce distress, addiction, isolation and suicide that afflict us, whether we be performers, writers, musicians, painters or other?
How can the artists’ work of exploring meaning and human experience be fully engaged in a spirit of inquiry and creativity within intentional space that is also mindful, compassionate and supportive, knowing that some of this content relates to personal struggle and intensity, trauma and existential issues including suicide?
PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH PHASE
Heart of the Artist is currently in a Participatory Action Research phase to develop the structures and concepts truly responsive to the arts communities. Through a series of 3-5 listening sessions key informant input will guide program development with the goal of beginning pilot programming in early 2020.
For purposes of program development and deployment, Heart of the Artist has engaged with national and Los Angeles based organizations including SAG/AFTRA, Dancers Alliance, the Santa Monica Youth Conservatory, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, Circle X theater, The LA Theater Alliance as well as arts industry advisors.
For more information contact Eduardo Vega, principal/CEO; Humannovations
"In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure." ~(Unknown)