How High School Students Use Art to Cope

Iris B., Isaiah B., and Victor I. (Left to Right) use art as a way of understanding themselves and the world around them. Photos contributed by the artists.

Art creation and consumption have been scientifically proven to be extremely beneficial to the human brain; they are said to be particularly helpful in lowering stress, increasing focus, and heightening one’s ability to imagine.

Learning this, I began to wonder about the ways in which my fellow students use art as a tool. I interviewed three of my peers about their art consumption and creation and how particularly stressful moments (such as the current global pandemic) affect the way they use art to help them. 

The following is a blend of our interview transcript as well as a summary of their responses, which have been edited for clarity.

ISAIAH

Isaiah B. is a 5th year student at WCI. He is the co-founder and editor of BADKID magazine, an online arts publication. He himself is a photographer, poet and digital artist. 

Have you found that your art creation/consumption has increased since the start of the pandemic? 

My art creation has definitely decreased just from a lack of resources. My art consumption has stayed the same given that it is all over my (Instagram) timeline. I’ve also been writing a lot if that counts as creation. 

Why is Art Important to you?

Art is important to me because it’s a special tool that allows us to translate our most inner selves to the outside world into something that is tangible. It’s very easy to feel isolated and alone in our identities and experiences and to know that someone outside of ourselves can get even a grasp on what it’s like to be us can be the one thing that saves us from total despair. It’s sort of a catalyst for empathy and it allows those who feel alone to carve out a space for themselves.

For Isaiah, art allows him to process emotions he may not otherwise understand. He explains, “Everyday I come across art that takes words, or feelings I didn’t even know I had out of my mouth.”

Art’s ability to make Isaiah feel less alone is something that he values, but he’s also come to understand that art is not always emotionally relieving. 

Self Portrait of Isaiah B.

“There are times where creating a piece helps me explore and resolve an issue I have within myself and I feel more at peace. But other times I’m just left with more questions. Sometimes I end up hating what I’ve made and I get sad, haha.” 

VICTOR

Victor I. a fifth year student at WCI, an animator and an aspiring director.

He expresses a similar view to Isaiah’s: “Art can make you feel a whole bunch of everything from hopefulness to despair to confusion.”

When Victor was asked what he personally valued about art, he explained, “Art is an extension of a person’s soul; it’s an extension of themselves. Art for me has always been a way of interpreting the things you see in the real world, a way of conveying ideas which you simply cannot in any other medium.” 

He went on to say, “I’m a visual person, for me emotions are more easily expressed through visuals.” Victor, like Isaiah, understands art to be a unique method of communication, one that transcends language. 

Do you often feel better after creating/consuming art? 

100 percent, art in a way is like meditation, with all the stress and extremes we face in our daily lives, art is therapeutic as you’re letting your thoughts out so to speak. 

Do you find that creating art helps you to focus? 

I have trouble focusing on certain subjects which is partly due to my ADHD. Drawing helps me stay on task. Out of every task I’ve ever done, drawing is the only one that comes second nature to me.

IRIS

Iris Bednarski, a Grade 12 student at KCI, who co-manages BADKID magazine with Isaiah, describes how she has also found art helpful in moments of stress: “I usually default to producing/consuming art when I feel stressed or muddled. I find it demands a level of focus (especially in producing) that eliminates any room for anxiety or perseverating.”

There is the opportunity to lose oneself in the creation of art for Iris. She says, “When I paint or draw, I often become so involved in the task that I forget what I was worrying about in the first place. Moreover although the latter is helpful what is even more useful about art is it often allows me to put my problems into perspective.” 

A sense of perspective is certainly important to have these days, as well as an ability to feel hopeful about the future.

“I often find artists’ takes to be very hopeful,” Iris continues. “There is a kind of rejection of social norms and expectations – and in some cases even just logic and common sense – in art that is very therapeutic.”

Why is Art Important to you?

From an objective standpoint, I think art is important because it is the most accessible and creative medium in terms of preserving, critiquing, or commenting on society and culture. On a more personal level, I value art as a means of personal expression – it’s the easiest way for me to articulate or express unresolved or underdeveloped feelings.

Do you find that sometimes art presents things you feel but have had trouble articulating? 

As referenced in my previous response, yes! Not so much in creating art, but rather in its consumption I often find resolution or even just clarity of personal dilemmas and thoughts. I find even the most abstract works can be refreshingly exacting. 

Art enables us to expand our perspective and provides a unique opportunity for introspection. Art consumption and creation is an accessible coping mechanism, one that everyone, regardless of circumstance can use. In times of great emotional stress, we can take inspiration from those who employ art as a tool for understanding.  

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