Merging art with health
The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts heralded their 35 graduates of the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree programme with the 2019 final-year exhibition, held on June 1. The exhibition also marked the official forging of a relationship between the school and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, as Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, endorsed the impact the arts have on health and overall well-being – by supplementing medicine and care, the arts can improve the health of people who experience mental or physical health problems.
The exhibition presented a curation of some of the artworks produced for the fourth-year independent study examination of the programme. The categories of art featured were fashion design, visual communications, sculpture, jewellery, painting and art education. The students experimented using repurposed materials such as cardboard, shoes and suitcases. Many students incorporated digital technology in their presentations.
In his address at the opening ceremony, Tufton highlighted the importance of mental health to longevity and quality of life. He noted that it is easy to get caught in the “rat race” in a society where success is determined by material possessions rather than inner peace or a contented state of mind. While he acknowledged the importance of wealth, he also expressed the significance of balance.
“We get so caught up, sometimes we lose the narrative of balance – balancing work with relaxation, balancing consumption habits, balancing physical activity and pursuit of things that enhance that state of mind,” he said.
This focus on other aspects that encompass health, reflects the holistic approach prescribed by the World Health Organization.
He further encouraged the graduates, saying, “You must see your profession as an opportunity to create significance by influencing a change in this scenario – by influencing a balanced lifestyle. I do believe that your artistry possesses that significant potential.”
Over the past month, Tufton was actively involved in the now-completed mural project at the Bellevue Hospital. Patients of the Occupational Therapy Department, through an investment by Pepsi-Cola Jamaica, partnered with students of the Edna Manley College to beautify spaces across the institution.
“I have never seen the patients so happy and contented. They were dancing up a storm, they had an impromptu concert, and I even had the courage to join in and sing. It was therapeutic and is evidence of the importance of art. That partnership was not just about painting murals; it’s about the holistic agenda where in addition to eating right and exercising, mental well-being is fostered and developed. We would like to see more partnerships like this, where persons with mental health challenges are not alienated but included,” he said.