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Working to bring healing through art expression

Jennifer Larue, Jlarue99@Hotmail.Com

Many artists believe that making art and being creative is therapeutic, that it calms the mind and relieves stress.

Expressing oneself in such a universal manner allows artists to connect to others on a deeper level; colors, textures and form become language, a “soap box,” if you will, sharing beliefs, visions of beauty, worldly concerns and memories.

Even simply viewing art can evoke the latter; things forgotten in the rush of life and the pain it often brings. Ann Walker hopes to bring a renewed sense of wholeness, life and happiness to others through her particular forms of expression.

Though Walker has never exhibited or sold her work (that’s one of her goals) she is an artist who is more interested in the process than the final product.

“Creativity is life force. The act of being creative connects us to ourselves and something bigger than ourselves at the same time,” she said. “Creativity is a manifestation of gratitude for our lives and the world around us. At the same time, it also allows for the expression of emotions we would often rather avoid like guilt, shame, sadness and anger. When we can get those emotions out on paper, they no longer eat at us from the inside; we can let them go.

“That’s the power of the creative process. It doesn’t matter what something looks like in the end, it’s what happens in the process of creating, the expression of emotion, the personal insights attained. That’s how creativity is life-changing.”

Walker, 33, graduated from Mead High School in 1995 and went on to Lesley University in Cambridge University where she earned a master’s degree in art therapy and mental health counseling. She is qualified but not yet registered as an art therapist; she needs to complete a certain number of hours which she is doing as the “art lady,” the Arts in Healing program coordinator at Providence Center for Faith and Healing at Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

As the “art lady,” she rolls in the “art cart,” bringing an array of supplies to children at their bedsides or in the playrooms of the children’s ward. Whether it’s bringing a guitar to someone who doesn’t have long to live or the means for a child to express herself through a debilitating or life-threatening illness, the rewards are immense. Walker has witnessed many instances when gloom and pain have become joy and fun through the creative process.

Walker believes in the power of art to heal. “The artistic process reaches nonverbal areas of the brain and allows us to express and work through aspects of our lives that hinder us,” she said, “When working with people who are patients at Sacred Heart, I can observe how the creative process increases their sense of well-being.”

The Arts in Healing Program is donor and grant funded. The program is funded through April. The program has applied for several grants including the LIVESTRONG Creative Center grant.

November is Arts in Healthcare month. Walker has been working with Children’s Hospital artist-in-residence Nicholas Sironka on a mural project that will be hung in the hospital to celebrate and honor the creative spirit.

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