Art can serve multiple functions, ones that we can often take for granted. When it comes to street art, we mostly think of it in two ways: as community projects and as beautification Measure. For the first, grants and privately-funded art projects are constantly going on all over the world. They can help young artists see their work somewhere important, and it can give paying jobs to artists, youth, and other members of the community. These projects can strengthen neighbourhoods, and even cities, all thanks to the power of art. And, of course, it usually doesn’t hurt that the art makes wherever it is a little nicer to look at.
But researchers have been looking into how art can help people as a therapy for decades. Indeed, art therapy courses are becoming more and more common, particularly with the elderly, people recovering motor control, and even those who’ve suffered brain damage. The combination of soothing creation and necessary fine motor skills make art the perfect therapy for many people, and it’s only getting more popular.
It’s from this standpoint that the Wall/Therapy Festival was born. Knowing full well that art has the power to heal, and help people recover, the festival was created to celebrate and encourage the link between art and health.
The festival started with Dr. Ian Wilson in Rochester, New York, a city that he felt deserved some giving back. So he decided to start a “community-level intervention using mural art as a vehicle to address our collective need for inspiration,” according to the website. That first festival was simple: Dr. Wilson gave eleven artists, whom he called “therapists,” the means to “rehabilitate” walls around the city. The festival not only beautified 16 walls throughout the city, it also sparked a community dialogue about the city and the role of art in its identity and everyday workings.
Since then, the festival has happened every year, getting bigger and bigger while touching more and more people. Soon, Dr. Wilson created a secondary initiative to help the city. Called “IMPACT!” (IMProving Access to Care by Teleradiology), the program sets up diagnostic imaging sites in developing countries. Basically, the idea of imagery as an important aspect of healing comes not just through creative art, but through the very images of our bodies that can tell us something about what’s happening inside. Together, the festival and initiative have helped not only the citizens of Rochester, New York, but people around the world.
Wall/Therapy recognizes that art is not completely disjointed from ourselves, but an integral aspect of how we interact, communicate, and even heal. It’s not simply something done as a release or side project, but is intrinsically tied to the very core of our being, as a society, and as individuals. Wall/Therapy recognizes such a powerful connection, and takes it to a wholly different levels, and the street.