How Art Saved Me

Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato paved the way of thinking in the Western world in such a profound way that their thinking is still greatly recognized to this day. Students of their philosophy, such as Tolstoy built upon these notions and created their own way of thinking that built upon these principles. However, although these notions are the basis and foundation for how we view art to this day, it is also important to look at modern definitions of art in order to formulate a comprehensive understanding and definition for ourselves, as the world is constantly changing and evolving and therefore, our understanding should as well.

Professor Henry Tate from Berklee College of Music has been profound in helping young artists come to their own definition of art. In fact, “Many Berklee students will tell you that they did not understand what art was, nor did they understand that they themselves were artists, until they took one of Professor Tate's art history courses”. Tate explains, “as a painter I find myself exercising demons” and continues to explain that, “I am able to exercise those demons I would say in the same way that a musician would be able to go back to a keyboard or a drummer going back to the drum and letting those anxieties be released”. Nona Hendryx, a revolutionary singer and voice in the music industry has had a plethora of success in her field, in addition to paving new ways of thinking. Hendryx describes art in a similar fashion as Tate, however she uses her specific medium of music and states that “Music is a self generated healing process” as well as, “a tool to exorcise their demons or explore their dreams and hopes... a way to deal with life in general, a way to communicate and connect with other people, with their environment, with the world”.

I believe similarly to these philosophers, both ancient and modern, and have used art for myself in both a cathartic and methodical way. When I first fell in love with music I was a small child, but when I truly understood my love for it and what my definition of art meant, I was 18 years old. After leaving college due to extreme anxiety and depression I found myself contemplating if life was worth living. Eventually, after much time and treatment in a hospital, I was released to an outpatient facility, where I lived with many likeminded individuals. I did not have a lot of time to myself, but I did have elected therapies throughout the day. Some were traditional, either solo or group meetings with a doctor, but others were creative therapies.

Every day I had art therapy, where I would sit in a room with 15 other adults and we would color or paint and I never understood why I felt better after because the concept of it felt so silly to me at first. During my depression I had pushed away my love for music as I was afraid that it would no longer bring me joy, but one day during free time in the common room I walked up to the piano and started playing and singing so softly I could barely hear my own voice. For the next few days I started playing and singing, a little louder each day until it eventually became a part of the day that people looked forward to. Other members my group would ask me to learn songs or play certain things for them and I started taking pride in a process that helped heal not only my soul, but other people as well. To this day, whenever I feel anxious or depressed, I go back to the basics and sit down at my piano and sing and play. This feeling has helped me develop my definition of art- something that helps heal the soul by getting through the hard times and celebrating the good times by connecting with yourself and identifying with that same piece of yourself in others.

The first time I ever truly related to a song was when I heard the song, “A Little Bit Longer” by Nick Jonas where he sang about his diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes. As a diabetic of 16 years myself, I always felt so alone myself and hearing the words of someone else that I was able to relate to helped me. When I heard the lyrics “All this time goes by Still no reason why A little bit longer and I'll be fine” I felt like they were written for me because they made me feel not alone, as if someone had recognized a piece of themselves in me the way that I do when I write and perform music for others. As a child being diagnosed with a chronic illness, it was always hard for me to understand “why” this happened to me, but hearing these lyrics helped me feel like knowing the answer was not as important anymore, after knowing that other people asked this question too. I will always be grateful for art that is able to evoke this feeling from me and I hope to continue to evoke this emotion from others as I believe that the human connection that we feel to others is the bond that keeps us happy and alive. I have never felt it from others the way that I have when relating to someone over our art and that is why the connection and communication art evokes in us as humans will continue to live on forever.