Black Art as Wellness: How I’ve Found Healing through Art

Black Art as Wellness: How I’ve Found Healing through Art


As an artist, I've always believed that art has transformative power. I’ve experienced it in my own life. Growing up, art was one of the few outlets I had to help make sense of the world around me. The picture above is of my mother. I drew it after she passed away a few years ago. While I was cleaning out her belongings, I found an essay I wrote at 14-years-old in my 10th grade English class. The essay was about my childhood and the neighborhood I grew up in. I started out by sharing my experience of the first drive-by shooting I lived through at six years old.


For myself, and many other black artists, to simply label art as self-expression would be limiting its impact. Art is the therapy my family couldn’t afford or didn’t believe in. Art is a vehicle to express the mental health challenges that result from normalizing trauma. It’s a language to have the difficult conversations needed to foster healing. It’s a declaration of intent. It’s a documentary of stories we were told weren’t important enough to be told. I want to delve into how we as black artists leverage our art for therapy and the profound impact it has on our well-being and the resilience of our community.


The Healing Power of Art

I've always been amazed at how art can transcend language and culture. In 6th grade, I befriended a kid, Aleksi from Helsinki, Finland. Aleksi, an ESL student (English as a Second Language), had limited English proficiency. He primarily communicated by pointing to things and making sounds. It was as unconventional as it sounds. However, the remarkable aspect was that Aleksi was an exceptional artist. He created these exaggerated comic characters, and that became how we communicated. Despite his limited English, I gained a profound understanding of art from him that year.


Regardless of how an artist creates their art, it’s a unique avenue for them to express their deepest emotions and experiences. For black artists, the act of creation becomes a cathartic journey, aiding us in navigating life's complexities and addressing the unique challenges we face. Art has guided me through some of the lowest moments in my life. That 10th grade essay I mentioned earlier went on to detail a variety of other traumas that you would see in any typical 90’s hood-tale. And while it may have seemed typical at the time, each incident was pivotal to my life and how I experience the world to this day.


Through our art we convey personal narratives, shedding light on issues such as racial inequality, social injustice, as well as current and historical trauma. Even though it’s self-expression, it’s not just therapeutic for us individually; it also raises awareness and creates necessary conversations in our community in spaces they may not happen otherwise.


Addressing Mental Health Challenges

It's no secret that our community faces numerous mental health challenges, with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These things often originate from systemic oppression, discrimination, intergenerational trauma, stigma, and outright denial. Personally, this issue hits close to home. Growing up, we lacked the vocabulary, comprehension, or stability to address mental health in our community. Most of the people I grew up around struggled to have their basic needs met, setting a high bar for compassion. It pains me to reflect on how I've witnessed the most vulnerable in our community carelessly discarded because helping was deemed too inconvenient.


As artists, we are keenly aware of and frequently grapple with these struggles. We channel our creative talents to create works that authentically reflect our lived experiences. By tackling these mental health challenges through our art, we become voices for those who are silenced or marginalized. Through our creative expression, we provide validation and understanding, cultivating a healing environment for both ourselves and our audience.


Fostering Healing Within the Community

Art possesses a unique ability to bring people together, forging connections and fostering a sense of belonging. One of my favorite things to come out of launching Forever Incomplete Art, has been hearing the stories of how people have connected with my art. I’ve enjoyed listening to how someone interpreted a piece of my work, how they were impacted by the art, or hearing the many ways individuals have been able to see themselves reflected in my work. Each story is another forged connection.


Black artists actively use our creativity to build community, promoting healing and resilience. By utilizing my art to narrate personal stories of loss, such as the passing of my mother, I've found a genuine connection with others who share in our grief and loss, all while striving towards healing.


Through art exhibitions, workshops, and community events, we create spaces where individuals can come together to share their stories, find solace, and build supportive networks. These gatherings not only provide a sense of community but also offer opportunities for collective healing and empowerment.


As black artists, we play a vital role in healing our community. Through our creative endeavors, we offer a therapeutic outlet for ourselves and others, highlighting the unique struggles we face. By sharing our stories and experiences, we promote awareness, encourage dialogue, and create spaces for healing and resilience. The power of art as a form of therapy cannot be underestimated, and the work of black artists continues to create safe and healing spaces in our community.

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