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How Art Transforms and Heals Our World

February 2, 2024

The world is good because it gives us all we need to create from it and with it. And, abiding in gratitude for that gift, we naturally desire to give in turn. We naturally desire to add our own creativity to creation, to make the world even more good, more alive, and more beautiful.  — Charles Eisenstein

Dear PEERS and WantToKnow.info subscribers,

We celebrate what is good about the world, and what draws out the best in humanity. At PEERS and WantToKnow.info, we’ve summarized over 3,000 inspiring news articles since the beginning of our organization in 2003. Within this collection, we've summarized meaningful stories about the power of art: visual art, music, dancing, singing, and more.

Below, we've included some of the most remarkable stories illustrating the role of art and creativity in personal and collective healing, from making streets and cities safer, to healing trauma and disease in profound ways, and bringing people together across differences. While activism moves the material world, art moves the heart, body and soul. It stimulates all of our senses and awakens full-body participation, shifting our role from passive participant into active creator.

May art and creativity spark your life in new ways! Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, taking a dance break with any music that gets you feeling groovy and energized, cooking something new in the kitchen, dressing in colorful ways, rearranging your space, or slowing things down with a poem or mindful reflection. Let us know what you're doing to get the creative juices flowing in your life!

Lastly, spend time looking around with the eyes of a child. Something that children possess is the willingness to see things in fresh ways, which includes the fearlessness to try new things or even engage in mundane daily tasks in new ways. Remember that sense of wonderment, love of color, surprise, curiosity and hunger to explore. How does this change your daily life experience?

We hope you enjoy these touching stories below!

With faith in a transforming world,
Amber Yang for PEERS and WantToKnow.info


Want Safer Streets? Cover Them in Art
August 22, 2022, Reasons to be Cheerful
read on WantToKnow.info

Crosswalks don’t work. According to various studies, only between five and fifteen percent of drivers slow down at pedestrian crossings. The vast majority of drivers simply don’t pay attention to them. America’s deadly streetscape is the subject of The Street Project, a new PBS documentary about citizen-led efforts to make streets safer. When filmmaker Jennifer Boyd started making it, she assumed distracted driving must be behind the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths. But as she soon learned, digital screens are less of a culprit than most people realize. “Less than one percent of pedestrian deaths involved portable electronic devices,” she found. Instead, she discovered that two of the biggest factors are speeding and bigger cars. If speeding and visibility are the problem and crosswalks can’t stop it, color might. The Asphalt Art Initiative, a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides grants to create art to modify dangerous streets. One of these projects is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where artists and residents transformed a high-traffic commercial thoroughfare with a block-long asphalt mural, while students marked safe walking paths in the area with stencils and wheat paste. Overall, according to the Initiative, “the data showed a 50 percent drop in crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 37 percent drop in crashes leading to injuries. Intersections with asphalt art saw a 17 percent reduction in total accidents.”

Note: Don't miss the great pictures and video of this public art. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How rhythm shapes our lives
May 26, 2023, BBC News
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Why do we care about rhythm? It connects us to the world. It plays a role in listening, in language, in understanding speech in noisy places, in walking, and even in our feelings toward one another. Rhythm is much more than a component of music. We experience the rhythmic changes of the seasons. Some of us have menstrual cycles. We have circadian rhythms – daily cycles of mental and physical peaks and troughs. Tides, 17-year cicadas, lunar phases, perigees, and apogees are other naturally occurring rhythms. Human-made rhythms include the built world – street grids, traffic lights, crop fields, mowed designs in baseball diamond outfields, the backsplash behind the kitchen counter, spatial patterns in geometric visual artforms. Rhythms in the brain have been called out as a basis for consciousness itself. Even in very young children, being (literally) "in sync" with another person engenders positive feelings toward them. Music in general, and rhythm in particular, does an uncommonly good job fostering a sense of community. Indeed, music being played at negotiation sessions helps to smooth the conversations and leads to breakthroughs and compromisesMusicians Without Borders is used to form relationships in troubled regions around the world, to bring hope, comfort, and healing to diverse populations. The Resonance Project and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, which are forming bonds between Israeli and Palestinian children, are other examples of using musical rhythm to overcome differences.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Artist Transforms Guns To Make Music - Literally
Janury 25, 2014, NPR
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Pedro Reyes says being Mexican is like living in an apartment where an upstairs neighbor has a leaking swimming pool. "Just what is leaking," says Reyes, "is hundreds of thousands of guns." Reyes believes art should address social issues like gun violence, even when they're difficult and controversial. "We have to be allowed to ask questions," he says. "If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free." Reyes also addresses the issue of gun violence in another way, by using guns themselves. His first project began in 2007 in the Mexican city of Culiacan. As part of a campaign to curb shootings, the city collected 1,527 guns. He used them to create art. "Those 1,527 guns were melted and made into the same number of shovels," he says. "So for every gun now, there's a shovel. And with every shovel, we planted a tree." Now Reyes is working on a new project. It is one that transforms guns into something more musical. An exhibition of the work is on display at the University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum. It's called "Disarm," and consists of guns that have been turned into musical instruments." To me at least," Pedigo says, "the concept is about taking weapons that are destructive in nature and chaotic and trying to make them for something else. So, instead of objects of destruction, they become objects of creation." That's exactly Reyes' point. Art, he says, is about transformation. "It's the same metal," he says, "but it is no longer a gun. It's now a flute or a guitar."

Note: Don't miss the incredible pictures of Reyes' latest inspiring project.


Why Our Movements Need to Start Singing Again
December 4, 2022, Common Dreams
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Social movements are stronger when they sing. That's a lesson that has been amply demonstrated throughout history, and it's one that I have learned personally in working to develop trainings for activists over the past decade and a half. In Momentum, a training program that I co-founded and that many other trainers and organizers have built over the last seven years, song culture is not something we included at the start. And yet, it has since become so indispensable that the trainers I know would never imagine doing without it again. We developed a session within Momentum devoted to reviving song culture. We named it "Why did we stop singing?" This module teaches how to bring more music to our movements by breaking down common barriers like self-consciousness, discomfort with vulnerability, and lack of a shared repertoire. Once Momentum began incorporating it into its curriculum, "Why did we stop singing?" quickly became one of the most popular parts of the training. Over several years, many of the organization's trainers and leaders worked to develop the module and, as they did, some important lessons emerged. Chief among them: Music is a powerful tool that we have too often neglected in our organizing–and members of our movements are hungry to bring it back. The training was designed to promote a more sustainable culture of direct action, as well as to put traditions of mass protest in dialogue with longer-term models of structure-based organizing.

Note: The above was written by Paul Engler, a co-founder of Momentum Training, which instructs hundreds of activists each year in the principles of effective protest. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Violence plunged after he brought the arts to a Tijuana neighborhood
June 9, 2016, Christian Science Monitor
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The bunker houses the Torolab project known as La Granja Transfronteriza, or La Granja (The Farm) for short a place brimming with the arts and more that draws community members of all ages. As Tijuana garnered a reputation as one of the most violent places in the world, Camino Verde held the inglorious title of the most dangerous neighborhood in the city. But today, Camino Verdes story is changing. And La Granja, founded in 2010, has been no small factor. On weekday afternoons, the bunker is bustling with young kids screeching out notes on their violins under the guidance of instructors. Families gather on the weekend to grow vegetables in the nascent community garden. Theres a computer lab upstairs, and parents can pursue their GED certificates. Most strikingly, however, violence in Camino Verde has plunged, falling by 85 percent since 2010. This was one of the most violent places in the world, where you werent expected to make it out, [Torolab founder Ral] Crdenas says. Now its common to see governments and arts schools from around the globe coming to the neighborhood to learn. When, in 2010, a group of local leaders came together to talk about what they could do to change Tijuanas violent trajectory, Crdenas took charge of pinpointing where they could make the biggest difference. What people want and what people need is to have a livable space, he says. Already, the project has received multiple prizes and global recognition.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Getting On the Dance Floor Will Shred Pounds in Overweight People, Improve Blood Pressure and Mental Health
January 23, 2024, Good News Network
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Boogying the night away produces meaningful improvements in one's body mass and waist circumference in people who are overweight or obese, a new study found. Dancing was also seen to improve blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, physical fitness, cognitive disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, and mental health—in other words, all the root causes of the non-communicable diseases that kill most people in the West. The researchers believed that dance would be a more ideal form of exercise because it is sustainable—it's a sociable, entertaining way of exercising that participants will enjoy, rather than a drudgery they have to push themselves through. “Dance is effective on fat loss in people overweight and obese and has a significant improvement on body composition and morphology,” said Zhang Yaya, a Ph.D. student at Hunan University, China. To get their results, published in the journal PLoS ONE, the team studied data from 646 participants who were overweight and obese across ten different studies. They found that dance is very effective for improving body composition and showed that more creative dance types had the most pronounced body composition improvement when compared with traditional dance. Improvements were also found in overweight children and patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Learning His Body, Learning to Dance
November 25, 2009, New York Times
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Gregg Mozgala, a 31-year-old actor with cerebral palsy, had 12 years of physical therapy while he was growing up. But in the last eight months, a determined choreographer with an unconventional rsum has done what all those therapists could not: She has dramatically changed the way Mr. Mozgala walks. In the process, she has changed his view of himself and of his possibilities. Mr. Mozgala and the choreographer, Tamar Rogoff, have been working since last winter on a dance piece called Diagnosis of a Faun. It is to have its premiere on Dec. 3 at La MaMa Annex in the East Village, but the more important work of art may be what Ms. Rogoff has done to transform Mr. Mozgalas body. I have felt things that I felt were completely closed off to me for the last 30 years, he said. The amount of sensation that comes through the work has been totally unexpected and is really quite wonderful. Ms. Rogoff has often worked outside normal dance parameters with prison inmates, for instance and knew immediately that she wanted to try to create a piece for Mr. Mozgala. I didnt know what I was going to do for him, she said, but I just knew he was inspiring to me. She introduced Mr. Mozgala to a tension-releasing shaking technique, and it was immediately revelatory. My body just really took to it, Mr. Mozgala said. I did that for about 20 or 30 minutes, and when I stood up, I was walking completely differently. My feet were flat on the ground. They knew they were onto something.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Revolutionary Music Therapy Helps Paralyzed Man Walk and Talk Again – It 'Unlocked the Brain'
April 30, 2023, Good News Network
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A patient who was left almost completely paralyzed from a rare disease is now walking and talking again, after a music therapist prescribed mindful listening to his favorite song every night–in this case, a tune by The Carpenters. 71 year-old Ian Palmer was struck down with Guillain-Barr© syndrome last June, forcing him to spend seven months in a hospital where he was unable to walk or speak properly. The rare condition happens when a person's own immune system attacks their body's motor nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. But when Ian was transferred to Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre, a state-of-the-art care unit in Lancashire, England, clinicians used music therapy techniques to overcome 'near total paralysis of his body'. His specialist, Clare, taught him mindfulness techniques using his favorite records–and he began listening to The Carpenters each night. Ian was admittedly skeptical, but he can now walk 2 miles a day (3k) and have conversations with his family after the exercises "opened up" his brain. He's never been very musical, so when Sue Ryder first suggested music therapy he said, 'What good is that going to do?' "I'm a typical Northern man, and I thought, 'What's a girl with a guitar going to do for me–get me to the gym.'" "But it really worked. Clare sat me down and explained the process. I learned that music is very unlike other therapies, as it opens up all of the brain."

Note: Watch a profoundly touching documentary about a man who takes on the broken healthcare system to demonstrate music's ability to heal, combat memory loss, and awaken the soul and the deepest parts of humanity. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


“You Are Watching the Power of Music Changing Brain Chemistry”
May 27, 2022, Reasons to be Cheerful
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Music, it turns out, is medicine for the mind. [A 2021 study] set out to see what happens in the brain when a person with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease listens to their favorite playlist for an hour every day. The 14 participants had brain scans and took neuropsychological tests that involved memory exercises. At the end of the trial the participants showed a small but statistically significant improvement in memory — something that is extremely unusual. New connections had formed between different regions of the brain ... that actually changed brain plasticity and also improved function in relaying information. Thaut says the research shows that while music is in no way a cure for Alzheimers, it can provide a "cognitive boost." That’s why a person with memory impairment may not recall their daughter’s name but may remember all the lyrics to her favorite lullaby. “It’s pulling from emotions, it’s pulling from feelings, it’s pulling from interpersonal associations, it’s pulling from a date or time or period of one’s life — historical things,” [Concetta] Tomaino says. Music serves as a clue, coaxing the brain to fill in the blanks. “It is painful to watch your beloved slip away inch by inch,” [Carol Rosenstein] says. “And if it weren’t for the music, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. As a caregiver and first responder, I can tell you, I would have never survived the journey.”

Note: Watch a profoundly touching documentary about a man who takes on the broken healthcare system to demonstrate music's ability to heal, combat memory loss, and awaken the soul and the deepest parts of humanity. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides..


Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Through Music
January 29, 2019, New York Times
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When Ronald Braunstein conducts an orchestra, theres no sign of his bipolar disorder. Hes confident and happy. Music isnt his only medicine, but its healing power is potent. Scientific research has shown that music helps fight depression, lower blood pressure and reduce pain. The National Institutes of Health has a partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts called Sound Health: Music and the Mind, to expand on the links between music and mental health. It explores how listening to, performing or creating music involves brain circuitry that can be harnessed to improve health and well-being. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said: Were bringing neuroscientists together with musicians to speak each others language. Mental health conditions are among those areas wed like to see studied. Mr. Braunstein, 63, has experienced the benefits of music for his own mental health and set out to bring them to others. Mr. Braunstein reached out to [Caroline Whiddon] about creating an orchestra that welcomed musicians with mental illnesses and family members and friends who support them. Mr. Braunstein called his new venture the Me2/Orchestra, because when he told other musicians about his mental health diagnosis, theyd often respond, Me too. In 2014, a second orchestra, Me2/Boston, was created. At each performance, a few musicians briefly talk about their mental illnesses and take questions from the audience.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides..


Do Art Lovers Live Longer?
December 23, 2019, Psychology Today
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People who engage in arts-related cultural activities such as going to museums or musical concerts may have a lower risk of dying prematurely, according to a new study by researchers from University College London (UCL). The UCL researchers found a substantial reduction in early mortality among older adults who engaged in cultural activities. After a variety of confounding factors (e.g., socioeconomics, occupational status) were taken into account, those who participated in cultural activities "every few months or more" had a 31 percent lower risk of premature death. This "arts engagement and mortality" analysis spanned 14 years and involved nearly 7,000 older adults. Study participants self-reported the frequency of their arts engagement and cultural activities such as going to museums, art galleries, concerts, and the theater. Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe co-authored this paper. Part of the link between longevity and arts engagement is attributable to the socioeconomic advantages of those who have the leisure time and financial resources to engage in cultural activities regularly. That said, Fancourt and Steptoe report that arts engagement may have a protective association with longevity that transcends socioeconomics or occupational status. According to the authors, "This association might be partly explained by differences in cognition, mental health, and physical activity among those who do and do not engage in the arts, but remains even when the model is adjusted for these factors."

Note: See the BMJ study on this webpage. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How to sing like a planet: Scientists say the Earth is humming
April 23, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
read on WantToKnow.info

The Earth is humming. Singing. Its song is ethereal and mystifying and very, very weird a rather astonishing, newly discovered phenomen[on] that's not easily analyzed, but which, if you really let it sink into your consciousness, can change the way you look at everything. Scientists now say the planet itself is generating a constant, deep thrum of noise. No mere cacophony, but actually a kind of music huge, swirling loops of sound, a song so ... low it can't be heard by human ears, [roars] churning from the very water and wind and rock themselves, countless notes of varying vibration creating all sorts of curious tonal phrases that bounce around the mountains and spin over the oceans and penetrate the tectonic plates and gurgle in the magma and careen off the clouds and smack into trees and bounce off your ribcage and spin over the surface of the planet in strange circular loops. It all makes for a very quiet, otherworldly symphony so odd and mysterious, scientists still can't figure out exactly what's causing it or why [it's] happening. Sure, sensitive instruments are getting better at picking up what's been dubbed "Earth's hum," but no one's any closer to understanding what ... it all might mean. Mystics and poets and theorists have pondered the "music of the spheres" (or musica universalis) for eons; it is the stuff of cosmic philosophy, linking sacred geometry, mathematics, cosmology, harmonics, astrology and music into one big cosmological poetry slam.

Note: Not only does the Earth hum, but the Sun sings! Listen here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the nature of reality, click here.


More articles we've summarized on the power of music: