Creativity is good for you.
It’s a philosophy Julian Legere has always lived by, even before he really put it into words. Now, it’s a philosophy he’s sharing with New Westminster residents for Culture Days.
Legere is one of 10 emerging artists from around B.C. chosen to serve as Culture Days ambassadors – a role in which he serves as “an instigator and an activator” for the community’s celebrations. Culture Days, coming Sept. 27 to 29, is a nationwide celebration of arts and culture that includes thousands of free events in communities across the country.
Here in New Westminster, Legere is spearheading what he’s calling The Creative Wellness Challenge. He wants to see people commit to 15 minutes of creative activity a day for 10 days (from Oct. 1 to 10) – and hopefully beyond.
“I think on some level I’ve always intrinsically understood the connection between arts and health,” said Legere, a theatre artist and administrator who works with Massey Theatre. “I’ve had this notion in my head floating around about creative wellness.”
As it happens, this year’s Culture Days theme is creativity, the arts and well-being, so the stars aligned for Legere to turn his idea into tangible reality.
He notes there’s a growing body of scientific research exploring the link between creative expression and mental health, and how that link operates on a psychological and therapeutic level.
Legere describes that link as a three-level process.
First, there’s distraction – a level we all operate at instinctively, when we take our mind off our stresses by going to a movie, reading a book or putting on our earbuds and cranking our favourite playlist. Second, there’s engagement, where you actively use creative arts to engage with those things that are causing you stress and trauma. This is where art is used as a therapeutic method – think art therapy, music therapy, journalling. Third, there’s self-improvement, where the act of creative expression helps you to increase your self-esteem and sense of well-being.
To help people explore the notion of creative wellness for themselves, Legere is offering up a workshop called Speak the Speech. Participants will able to dig into favourite monologues from movies, TV shows and plays, or great speeches from the past, and learn to speak them with meaning.
The speeches don’t have to be heavy – Legere is planning to pull a favourite one from The Devil Wears Prada as an example – but they’ll all have words that are, simply, “fun to say.” He notes it’s just extending something we all do naturally – who doesn’t quote lines from their favourite TV shows or recite along with their favourite movies? - and taking it to a deeper level, with some vocal technique.
He wants to help people dig into the “juicy language” of well-written speeches and discover that they can achieve something creative in a quick and easy way.
Many times, he says, people feel like they need to have a certain skill set, invest large amounts of time into practice or sign up for a class in order to get meaning out of creativity.
“I really want to get people into the idea that you can have 10 minutes while you’re folding the laundry,” he said.
A similar philosophy will be shared in two other Creative Wellness workshops: one led by the city’s poet laureate, Alan Hill, and the other by New West Artists.
Both are designed to introduce people to the idea that you don’t need a formal structure in which to create and that the thing you create doesn’t need to be big; you can get the same sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from finishing a short poem or a small painting.
“You can just sit down at your kitchen table and write a poem, speak a speech, make a painting,” Legere said.
And there’s no judgment about whether the finished products are “good” or “bad”: the point is in the creation of the piece, not in its artistic merit.
Legere is also creating a Facebook group, The Creative Wellness Challenge, that he hopes will serve as an ongoing hub for promoting the idea into the future. He’ll share links to research about the value of creativity, and he’ll encourage members of the community to share their ideas and projects to help inspire others.
“I’d love to get people out of the woodwork,” he said. “People can share what they’re doing, and maybe it’ll inspire somebody else to say, ‘I could totally do that.’”
Legere hopes other people will come on board with the idea that creativity is the future of health.
“We know creativity is good for you,” Legere said. “I think that’s really good for people to be aware of.”
CHECK IT OUT
What: The Creative Wellness Challenge – Speak the Speech, a free workshop offered as part of Culture Days
When: Friday, Sept. 27, 4 to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, Sept. 28, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Massey Theatre, 735 Eighth Ave.