Written by Chloé Piché-Tremblay.
A little like sports, when we observe an artwork our body secretes hormones, generating a state of well-being.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) and the Francophone Doctors Organization of Canada teamed up to help participants and their loved ones enjoy the benefits of art. Since November 1st, 2018, it is now possible to get a prescription for the museum. A first in Montreal, possibly a first in the the world!
Similar initiatives have been occuring in the city for quite some time now. Notably, one effort at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts welcoming young autistic adults on a regular basis as part of an art-therapy project centered on expressing and recognizing emotion.
“As many people with autism have a difficulty decoding emotions expressed by others, as well as recognizing and externalizing their own emotions, we help them take up that challenge through creation and viewing the museum’s collection,” said Stephan Legari, an art-therapist with the Museum, to Le Devoir.
The Museum also offers a variety of other adapted programs combining a therapeutic approach with art for people with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s and others.
Art therapy applications and organizations are still not widely known to the public. Our team got the chance to discuss art-therapy and its benefits with art-therapist Martine Ashby and Montreal artist Mirov.
Martine Ashby defines art-therapy as “A form of therapeutic intervention allowing the expression of thoughts and feelings through creation and speech.” Accompanied by a professional, participants are able to work on “resolving challenges or difficulties encountered, developing reflexive adaptation strategies and defense mechanisms, as well as increasing self-esteem,” Ashby explains.
Ashby believes that some trials of life are harder to express and that words are not enough in some of these cases. The beauty of art-therapy is that it isn’t limited to the expression of words: “As the expression goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I would even add that an image creates a dialogue and it’s in that dialogue that we progress past the taboos surrounding mental health.”
In early 2018, Mirov launched an solo-exhibition called “ART THRPY at the Mainline Gallery in Montreal. “When I was putting “ART THRPY” together, my goal was to highlight the duality at the heart of the relationship we have with ourselves: We can be our biggest and most powerful ally, but also (and more importantly) we have the potential to be our biggest enemy with the most destructive impact. I wanted to offer an immersive space which would facilitate an introspective experience through the artworks; giving people the option of stepping outside their thought routine and, who knows, leaving more empowered.”
“Might it be through my artworks, in the streets or on canvas, I always wanna spark a reflection regarding people’s perception of themselves; make them think about the nature of our inner dialogue and the limitations we give ourselves, even if they often are automatisms done in a completely and unconscious way,” the artist explains.
If an exhibition can have such a liberating effect on the public, it can be just as liberating for the artist: “Creating allows me to illustrate and share what’s happening inside and express myself on subjects that are captivating and make me think. There’s something very liberating in the process of using our imagination to make sense out of the soup of thought that is sometimes cooking for too long in our brain!”