Art Hives Can Improve Individual and Community Mental Health

Olga Kostenko ©123RF

Olga Kostenko ©123RF

Art Hives Can Improve Individual and Community Mental Health. But what exactly is an Art Hive?

An Art Hive is a community art studio whose central purpose is to build community by promoting self-discovery, increasing empathy, and strengthening interpersonal relationships, across divides, through the production of artwork. The intention is set on inclusivity and community problem solving, where everyone’s voice is welcome and heard. As one Art Hive participant put it, “it is a space where you can mobilize around an idea, march on the streets, then come back.”

The concept was developed by Dr. Janis Timm-Bottos, an art therapist and associate professor with the Department of Creative Arts Therapies in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Canada. Dr. Timm-Botts has established six thriving art hives across North America, based on sustained research practice of more than two decades. “The creative arts help us to build an environment that has the potential to heal ourselves while acting in solidarity with others,” says Dr. Timm-Botts. Quite literally, “art saves lives.”

Today, the Network of Art Hives includes nearly 100 registered Art Hives across the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

Conceptually, and at their core, Art Hives are similar to the old world plaza or city squares which were central to community life—a place where people gathered and shared community happenings, thoughts and ideas, had discourse and dialogue, exercised their talents, brought their unique identities and perspectives to the table, made decisions and solved the problems together. outlines the model for Art Hives as such,

An Art Hive:

  • Welcomes everyone as an artist and believes art making is a human behavior.
  • Celebrates the strengths and creative capacities of individuals and communities.
  • Fosters self-directed experiences of creativity, learning, and skill sharing.
  • Encourages emerging leaders of all ages.
  • Provides free access as promoted by gift economy.
  • Shares resources including the abundant materials available for creative reuse.
  • Experiments with ideas through humble inquiry and arts-based research.
  • Exchanges knowledge about funding and economic development strategies.
  • Partners with post-secondary institutions to promote engaged scholarship and participatory research.
  • Gardens wherever possible to renew, regenerate, and spread seeds of social change.

While Art Hives focus on the safe space setting being the mortar which builds and holds community together, the production of art is viewed as a catalyst for connecting with others, a basic human need, and healing.

Art production as a healing component is supported in research. A  research team led by neurologists Anne Bolwerk and Christian Maihofner reports in a study that “the production of visual art improves effective interaction” between certain regions of the brain:

“We found a significant improvement in psychological resilience from pre-intervention to post-intervention in the visual art production group.”

Author and lecturer, Ellen Dissanayake states that, “The power of an Art Hive can be traced back to the first people gathering to make something together. Whether it was preparing food or arranging rocks to point others in a particular direction, joining together in a creative process to problem solve and strengthen inner and outer resources is human behavior.”

It is this strengthening of inner and outer resources that promotes improved mental health for individuals and the community.

Check out: Mindful Exploring Mental Health Through Art
















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