Art asks that the viewer respond. It demands (sometimes in a whisper, sometime screaming). It challenges. And if it is demanding and challenging enough it creates a connection between the artist, the viewer, and the work. Art makes us feel wonder, joy, sadness, yearning...
When we purposely make art that seeks to imbue those feeling in others, we create empathy. The result is a world filled with more understanding, more sympathy, more compassion. Art invites healing.
I am working on a project with my daughter.
Kid Connections: Using exciting, fun, and creative ways to develop a framework for cognitive, social, and emotional connections in the kids we love.
She is a teacher and an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapist. My role within the project is to use art lessons and public art projects to support her Leadership Skills training sessions enabling parents and teachers to teach children the all-important executive functioning skills: planning, working memory, task initiation, flexibility, self-control, metacognition and perseverance needed to lead a happy, fulfilled, successful life. Through Social Insight training the parents learn how to help their children develop friendships and empathy; learn to share; to have patience; to understand, except and control their emotions; improve listening and communication; possess problem solving and teamwork skills.
Art fits seamlessly into these lessons. Collaborative art requires each of the social insight skills listed above. The process of creating art supports the development of executive functioning skills. Art requires patience and perseverance. In order for art to speak to others the artist must have the ability to sense what another person is experiencing. Art creates connections.
Throughout my many years of creating art and as a teaching artist, I have always felt my art should support the communities where I have lived and the causes I hold dear. One of the ways I have done this in the past and I am excited about doing in the future is through workshops and hands-on public art events for children and adults that teaches community and personal/cultural empathy.
The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.*
The word “empathy” means a sharing of feelings. Cultural empathy means that a person has an awareness and understanding of the cultural attributes of a given society and how they differ from his or her own culture. One who is empathetic will tend to be more accepting of differences rather than seeing them as good or bad, right, or wrong.**