Impact Art

Janet Wittmer–Flower Gift Card

November 2016

During this time of year many of us are moved to find ways to give back to our communities but, apart from donating food, money or time if we have them to give, we’re not sure how else we can contribute. And then once the holiday season is over, we’re not sure how we might keep giving in ways that are congruent with our interests and who we are.  Maybe for those of us who are therapists, our work itself fulfills that need, but even therapists often want to find more ways to positively impact the people they encounter in their lives–both strangers, co-workers, clients, and friends.

And for those of us who are artists, how does making artwork contribute to making the world a better place to live?  How do we give back when our calling in life doesn’t directly or even indirectly translate into helping others? Dave Moyer, the artist we featured in our last newsletter, inspired this line of inquiry.   He described a conversation he’d had with a friend who is an EMT. When he asked her how many lives she had saved, she answered “More than I can count.”

Dave was struck that, as an artist, although he had “made some pretty pictures”, he couldn’t really say that he had done “something of substance to help people out”. It left him with a feeling of emptiness but also a desire to find some way to use his artistic skills in the service of others.

Dave had just come back from a visit to Atitlan, a small lakeside village in Guatemala he had adopted, photographing the dwindling number of Mayan elders who live there. He realized that he could make a positive impact by documenting their stories.

Janet Wittmer–Tulip Gift Card

Dave started a “Go Fund Me” project to finance Los Abuelitos de Atitlan, a book devoted to capturing the spirit of these grandfathers and grandmothers. Click hereto see a short and inspiring video he made for the project. If you want to contribute, it is for a worthy cause. All of the proceeds will go to the village community and the book will bring their stories to the world.

Art therapist and artist Janet Witmer is also “giving back” to the world through art. She has a simple but unique take on doing so: whenever she leaves a tip for waiters or service people, she also gives them a handmade watercolor card, blank on the inside, which they can either keep or pass along to someone else.

Another art therapist, Gretchen Miller, started Operation Random Acts of Creative Kindness, leaving small 2″ x 3.5″ art trading cards (ATCs) with positive messages in public places like community centers, retail stores and churches. 

Artist Michael DeMeng started a similar project called Abandoned Art which invites artists all over the world to leave art work for people to find. Michael and his wife, Andrea created a facebook page where people can post the art they “abandoned”.  Often they will provide a theme for a given month. In October, it was fittingly “ghosts”. Michael suggests that artists wrap the art and attach a tag with a pleasant message and the facebook page link, so that people who find the abandoned art–“finders”–can post as well.  The Huffington post has a wonderful article on the Abandoned Art project.  

The bottom line is that giving to others, having a positive impact, makes our lives feel like they have meaning.  It fills up that emptiness that Dave described–that desire that hits many of us to do something that makes a difference.  Finding ways to do so that fits with our passions and interests can be not only creative and fun, but also help us connect to others like us who are trying to give back in ways that make sense to who they are.  

Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Activity
Make 3-5 small pieces of art work–e.g., artist trading cards, beaded charms, ceramic creatures or designs–and leave them with a tag saying that it is a gift for the person who found it.  Or make a set of Thank You cards tied together with a ribbon and leave them with instructions for whoever finds them to give them to people in their community (neighbor, bank teller, bus driver, CVS cashier, etc.). Post what you made on our facebook page and/or the Abandoned art facebook page.