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The Creative Arts and Wellbeing

Anna Epifano Warmth Wise
13 December 2016

(artwork: Warmth & Wise - Anna Epifano, as part of Art with Heart: MS Art Exhibition)

The Creative Arts can have a positive and powerful effect on a person’s wellbeing including healing, pain management and state of mind. Art forms such as painting, writing, film and music are also fantastic avenues for self-expression, building resilience and self-esteem, by helping people to cope in challenging situations.

This week, we share some interesting examples of people with MS who use their creativity as a form of therapy, with rejuvenating effects. Some are professional, others occasional artists who produce work primarily for themselves. All say that engaging in the creative arts benefits their individual circumstance.

Amber Gwynn is a fashion designer and model working out of Geelong, Victoria, who created her label, Nyata (meaning “real” in Indonesian) to empower “curvier” women and promote “fashion confidence, positive body image and beauty at all sizes.” She is also an avid painter who finds her art practise a “therapeutic activity.” Of her MS diagnosis, Amber says ““This was a wake-up call for me to do what is good for my soul, to chase my dreams fiercely because life is short and unpredictable. I am a strong advocate for living well with a disability and love to be a positive role model to those affected by this condition.” Amber has also started an online movement @nonairbrushedme with 116k followers on Instagram, all about promoting raw beauty and living well with a disability. To read more about Amber, read this article

Acclaimed ballet dancer Michelle Ryan was able to use her passion to overcome personal adversity after her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. She created a dance piece, “Intimacy”, which explored the effect MS has had on her body. Michelle is also Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre, which “collaboratively creates outstanding inclusive work informed by disability. To read more about Michelle, read this article

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of Relapsing Remitting MS at the age of 18, Jesse Fricke has limited mobility, eyesight and can only sing and play instruments for short periods of time. Despite these difficulties, he has recorded and released an EP (Extended Play record), which has inspired many others. Jesse finds writing music “cathartic” and “a good bit of therapy”. He says, “You’ve really got to focus on those really good things, otherwise it’s just so depressing when you realise all the things you can’t do, but it’s a lot better to look at the things that you can do.” Jesse is also a National Advocate for MS Australia. To learn more about Jesse and his music, check out his YouTube video.

As a “Lady with MS”, Astrid Edwards is using her blog as a platform to write for herself, her family and friends, and other people with MS, as a writer who in her own words is “pursuing a life not defined by MS.” Astrid is the also the Deputy Chair at Writers Victoria, and an MSA National Advocate. Click here to read her Lady with MS blog.

Many MSA “Uninterrupted!” bloggers have spoken about the powerful link between creative arts and wellbeing, and the benefits of expressing feelings and opinions to an audience. Our bloggers’ diverse experiences of living with MS help connect many in the MS community in discussing their own experiences. If you’d like to get involved, read their stories or become a guest blogger visit Uninterrupted!

Andrew Weller is an acclaimed writer, novelist, poet and journalist. Previously a classical guitarist and jazz musician, Andrew is currently working on his fourth book completed by dictation since being paralysed from the neck down, as a result of from Primary Progressive MS. You can read an interview with him here.

Prolific American filmmaker Jason DaSilva won an Emmy Award for his documentary, “When I Walk”, about his battles with MS and acceptance of his condition. DaSilva’s work process and the challenges he faces making films when he has with poor vision and decreased mobility caused by Primary Progressive MS, is profiled in this YouTube interview.

Tim Ferguson is probably one of the most well-known people with MS in Australia. He has just directed the film “Spin Out” and toured Australia as part of The Doug Anthony Allstars. Tim shared his MS journey on a recent episode of Channel Nine’s “A Current Affair.” 

MS Limited (advice and service provider for Victoria, NSW, ACT and Tasmania) run regular art classes at the MS Nerve Centre (Victoria) that provide participants an opportunity to create art and express themselves while also meeting new people and socialising. These classes culminate in an annual art exhibition of works created by people with neurological conditions. You can view some of the pieces from the 2016 exhibition visit here

If you’ve enjoyed reading these creative arts stories and have one of your own, please continue and share the conversation on the MSA Facebook page.