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Beth Pickens reminds us to make art as an act of self-care

When I picked up the new library book “Your Art Will Save Your Life” by Beth Pickens, I was in desperate need of a reminder.

Why am I making art? What is the purpose of making art? How can I improve the earth with what I make?
I couldn’t remember why I decided to buy so many art supplies under such a consistently oppressive federal and institutional system during such a difficult time, politically and personally. Being both in college and in a highly politicized climate is a constant reminder of how big a role having purpose plays in our lives, and if you’re like me, that is a source of many crises.

This book does a wonderful job of reassuring the reader of their valid artistry, their valid place, their valid role, and their valid mental health. As the book was written in response to the 2016 election, there are a lot of references to fears from that time that have only been amplified in recently morbid months — issues surrounding reproductive freedom, impending international crises, the spread of xenophobia and open hatred, to name a few.

Even with all of these problems, Pickens has calm, stable words to remind readers that art is a form of expression and is more than necessary when personal well-being is at stake. She doesn’t exactly share anything new that we haven’t heard before, but her presentation and relatability gives that blanket of reassurance that we are doing the right thing when making art – even if it’s not politically driven.

I clung to this book for several weeks to remind myself of all this, as artists like me need constant reminders that they are doing something okay, something healing, and something important. I wrestled back and forth with these sentiments throughout the time I read this book, but what helped most of all was merely the title.

Your Art Will Save Your Life. I digested each word every time my eyes found the cover next to my bed.

Your art will save your life.

I wanted to save other people’s lives with the education I’m privileged to have and the art I make. I didn’t even think to save mine.

All of the times I’ve made art, whether it’s been by myself or with friends or with strangers, have given me more exposure to culture, an understanding of others’ perception of the world, and the ability for humans to communicate and empathize through so many beautiful mediums. I’m always amazed and in awe of the art other people create. I really think other people’s art has saved my life many times, too.

In the end, this book’s title changed me. I was searching for anything I could grasp in the content of Pickens’ chapters when I realized that all I needed was that one reminder – that art is restorative and revolutionary.

Be kind to yourself – make art when you’re stressed. Make time to create with friends, or support their own creations. Give yourself the opportunity to express your voice in a clearly un-democratic country. This book (and review) is the gentle reminder that we all need.