“I learned that an artist is not necessarily someone who has studied art, but one who has something to say, and the courage to say it. I’ve learned that an artist is someone who makes art to save her life.” – Marlene Azoulai
It’s 2017 now and after eleven years as a full-time Registered Dental Assistant, I decided to leave my job. As a result in taking this leap of faith, I recently got the keys to my own art gallery/open space. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Sol Sisters to have asked me to write about the correlation of art and healing.
You may wonder, what does art and healing mean to me? Starting from an average-looking, middle-class childhood, my world was pretty typical until after age 5. I remember celebrating birthday parties with the neighborhood; there were clowns, balloons and lots of happiness. Or so I thought. My parents unexpectedly divorced when I was 5. I felt like my life had completely flipped upside down. Then, my mother remarried when I was 6 and a half and by the time I was 8, I had 2 new younger sisters. Not only that, her husband was physically and verbally abusive to her and sometimes to me as well. On the other hand, my father was partying a lot, which resulted in him abusing substances for many years. (don’t worry he is doing great today and is my biggest supporter) Understandably, this is why I felt like my life had flipped upside down. Whether I knew it or not, art became my only way to escape this new reality. I would spend all day outside drawing with chalk over every inch of the sidewalk, offering to paint faces at other kid’s birthday parties and winning drawing contests. I was also immersed in dance and would listen to music for hours as another outlet for healing and self-expression. I was determined not to lose myself.
Throughout high school, I lost touch with art, unless it was a class I was taking. I was preoccupied with my studies, social life, puberty, sports, heartbreaks, you name it. In my 20's, I moved to the city where both of my parents were born, this city has a powerful history and culture of art running deep in its veins. I am grateful for Oakland as I found art (my soul) again. As you can imagine, being 20 means going through lots of challenges. When I was 23, I was a victim of rape. It was one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve ever been through and it took me 2 years to tell anyone. The sad truth is that every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted (www.rainn.com; Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). I share this vulnerable part of my story because I know I am not alone. After holding onto fear, anger, sadness and blame towards myself, it wasn’t until I shared a poem and a painting about my story that I opened up about what happened. Again, art had shown up to save me.
Inspired by my community and the hustle of my friends; who are artists, poets, musicians and entrepreneurs, I took a leap of faith and began to pursue my own creative entrepreneurial journey. I wanted to bring art to people; whether to their living room or their place of employment. I wanted to give them the opportunity to heal through art as well. I was intrigued by a medical article I once read about the link between art, science and health and how it’s incorporated in hospitals, rehabs, veterans with PTSD, etc. Knowing that the power of art has been used for healing for hundreds of years, I decided to build my own creative events company, called Art Beat Events. It began as a humble mobile business hauling art supplies (30-50lb totes) back and forth to different events for the first 3 years. But at the same time, I struggled with having spaces to create, my own sanity from the non-stop scheduling and the logistics of learning a new field. As Art Beat Events grew, my dream was coming true. At that point, I needed to find a studio space to unleash all of it’s potential. Gratefully, I found a small space to rent, where I held workshops and events for a year and a half. As the business picked up, I outgrew that studio space.
Expanding was the next step. The growth of Art Beat Events, led me to obtain the keys to my OWN art gallery/open space. When I got this new space, I felt it deep in my soul that it was going to be so much more. The vision behind my new space, Makers' Loft, is larger than just an art gallery space. It is a multi-faceted creative space bringing together larger communities. It’s where supporting local artisans, holding neighborhood meetings, facilitating retreats, teaching creative workshops and art shows are all happening.
There are days where I have been told to slow down or to do less. My natural response to this is: “I can’t help it.” It is very important for me to only participate in things I’m passionate about. When I live this way, I’m always excited about what’s to come. Art has been my outlet for healing and connecting with people. It has brightened my darkest moments consistently and without it, I don’t know where or who I would be. Today, as I share a piece of my story with you, my hope is to inspire you to let go of your fears, to live passionately and incorporate art into your daily routine. I would also love to invite you to come to Makers’ Loft for a very special paint party, Mommy & Me, on Sunday, Feb. 19th. For mothers to create, connect and cultivate their relationship with their little ones. Limited seats available, details here & purchase tickets here
“The arts – things like poetry and music and drama and writing - - those things weren’t luxuries they were necessities. No matter where you come from, they knew we needed those experiences to feed our souls and make us whole and complete individuals.”
– First Lady, Michelle Obama