Responding with art


Last night a colleague and I hosted a Creative Sparks evening. We started offering these a few years ago. Each month we would select a film addressing a topic that showed how connecting to our inner lives and/or our creativity enhanced our experience of being alive. We would then respond to the film with silent art making so each person could stay with his or her own feelings and thoughts. We would close the evening by sharing anything we wanted to share if we wanted to speak aloud. These groups have always been well attended, well received and a wonderful way to connect.

What is always surprising is what emerges in a short time of playing with art materials. Of course there are many inviting materials displayed for selection to tempt even a timid first timer.


Some people paint, some create assemblages, or collages; others make masks, figures from wood pieces or dolls or draw with oil pastels or chalk pastels. Inner imagery is made visible. This may or may not carry meaning that can become apparent later with reflection. Any one in the group may comment on another’s piece but with no judgment either positive or negative. This means we speak of what our response to their response is; what is evoked in us in witnessing their creation.

Last night we showed the documentary, Inocente, an award winning film about a fifteen-year-old homeless girl who is a gifted artist. The filmmakers really showed the tactile nature of painting, at least how she painted. As viewers we just wanted to get our hands into the colorful paint containers. She painted large and freely with a vivid palette. Her first “canvas” was her face: each morning she would create elaborate patterns around her eyes. She also dressed colorfully with fake flowers in her hair. Despite the challenges her life presented she found support for her creativity through a program called ARTS- A Reason To Survive that served homeless youth and kids in foster care or group homes. Through them she was awarded an opportunity to exhibit, to have her own show.

There are other themes in the film: abuse- physical and emotional both spousal and child abuse; teenage pregnancy; undocumented immigrants; suicide; mother-daughter troubles. Much food for thought to stimulate responses.

As co-leader I have to create something quickly as my attention is split: focusing outwardly on the group process as well as inwardly. I was immediately attracted to a small black and white box. I wanted to decorate it colorfully and place symbolic things inside. I colored wood stars, added feathers and fabric scraps.



Then I created the little figure who represents Inocente herself.


I was not thinking of a story while doing this but rather letting the process lead me. However when I spoke I said perhaps it is about a Jill-in-the-Box. The box can represent the poverty, the homelessness, and the shame accompanying that, which Inocente finds herself stuck in. But she chooses to jump out of that to emerge as a colorful person through her creativity.

We all put ourselves in different boxes in different ways. It takes courage to spring up. We need to turn our own handle, take a small step to change our perspective. Maybe at first we just take a peek over the side. But the larger world there will seduce us if we let it. Coming alive is about emerging from boxes, from shells, from limiting beliefs. Hope this sparked some creativity in you.



Can you feel self-imposed limits holding you back?

What does the word HOME mean to you?

How do you create a home?

Where do you feel most at home?

Are there times when you experience a feeling of homelessness?

Is you creativity encouraged and if not how can you fix that?

Have fun.