Art and Healing


The arts have long been recognized as a means of healing. Music, drawings and paintings, chants, and dances have been used in healing rituals in the past, and today studies show what people knew already: art heals. It relieves stress; it lessens pain; it lowers blood pressure; it brings us to a different place and different moment, and helps us cope.

Selections of visual art or music will be posted on this site with questions to help you view them in depth. Then, if you wish, respond to the reflective writing prompt so you and the work can share a space, a moment in time. The reflective writing may be any length, from five minutes to twenty minutes of writing. Sharing that writing with a friend might be helpful but is optional.


June 19, 2020

From Google Art Project, Public Domain. Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Netherlands, painted in 1560, oil on wood. Exhibited at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Children’s Games (Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

In light of the pandemic, and children being at home in the summer rather than in school or off at camp, this painting with 230 children playing 83 different games seemed appropriate.


  1. Zoom in and look carefully at the painting, at the games children are playing, the dress they are wearing, and at their surroundings, as well.
  2. Notice how the artist has created a number of unique areas in this busy painting. How has that been accomplished here?
  3. What stories do you see in this painting? Why do you think the artist painted it?
  4. What is your reaction to this painting?

REFLECTIVE WRITING PROMPT: Write about a moment of play, either in the recent or distant past.

Note: Wikipedia has identified the names of many of the games in this painting.

May 26, 2020

From Elyse J. Kennard, with permission. Artist: Elyse J. Kennard, American, painted in 2010, watercolor, using airbrush with colored pencil.

Little South African Girl (Elyse J. Kennard)

Artist’s Statement: “I love drawing and painting children…I love working with vivid colors…I love this little girl’s facial expressions, her colorful outfit and jewelry. She makes me smile. During these troubled times, we need to find ways to smile more! I hope that my painting will make you smile. What brings out the inner child in you and fills you with joy?”


  1. Look at the artist’s use of color and the details in this painting. Describe what you see.
  2. What techniques were used to make this little girl come to life?
  3. What story is the artist depicting of this little girl?
  4. How does this painting make you feel?

REFLECTIVE WRITING PROMPT: Write about what brings out the inner child in you and fills you with joy.

May 10, 2020

From the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, Public Domain. Artist: Henri Matisse, (1869-1954) French, painted in 1908, oil on canvas.

The Red Room (Henri Matisse)

Henri Matisse painted during the early 20th century and was most known for his use of color to express emotion, his flattened perspective, and his use of decorative patterns.


  1. What two scenes do you see in the painting? Describe them.
  2. What techniques has the painted used to create these scenes? (color, stoke, depth, lines vs. curves)
  3. What is Matisse saying about this subject matter in this painting?
  4. How do you feel about this painting? Does it bring up thoughts or emotions?

REFLECTIVE WRITING PROMPT: Write about the family who sits around this table or write about your family meals, at a table or not at a table.

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