Collaborative Art and Relationships

Collaborative Art and Relationships

Tessa L. Hitz
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5981-8.ch012
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This study supports the value of collaborative visual artmaking in the pursuit of strong relationships, healthy bonding, and the development of the whole child. Based on educational, artistic, and child development theory, this mixed-methods study utilized arts-based collaborative experiences to measure potential growth in the areas of bonding, attachment, and relationship development between child and caregiver pairs (dyads). Through informal art-making sessions, caregivers and their child experienced collaborative artmaking and rated their own personal view of their relationship and bond with their dyad partner in pre and post-assessment surveys, through interviews and storytelling, and through observation using a bonding assessment chart. It was found that collaborative artmaking does indeed have a positive effect on the deepening of relationships and supports an increase in positive family behaviors and dynamics.
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Relationship is at the core of how we live and who we are as human beings. Our desire for human interaction comes from how we are wonderfully designed and factors into how we mature, grow, and survive. Our basic social structures, our happiness, even our all-encompassing health and whole development depend upon how we are influenced by relationship. We are designed as relational beings that crave connection and thrive when appropriate social supports are present and active in our lives. The relationships we have with people who care for us while we are young and who are an integral presence in our younger years influence and directly shape who we become as adults (Siegel, 2015).

In today’s digital and fast-paced age, intimate and in-person connection and deep relationship is often glossed over or simply overlooked. Many people have lost the ability to enter into deep relationship with another individual or a group and truly connect on a personal level. Trust is difficult to find and attachment and close personal bonds are difficult to develop within a culture and society that screams for individuality, independence, and making it “on your own.” Social Capital, or value in relationships and in the reciprocal benefit of social relationship is not a priority or even something that individuals or communities consider. Sadly this is a trend that affects family structures as well. The availability of technology in the home has impacted how families communicate and how children learn to socialize. Increased screen time and decreased face-to-face time is slowly taking its toll on socialization skills and how children interact with and communicate with those around them. “Social capital matters for children’s successful development in life” (Putnam, 2000, p. 299) and in turn affects our families and communities in which they live (2000).

Collaborative creativity fosters an instant connection to others through our five senses. We see artwork, watch a dance theatre production, hear music, and taste carefully prepared foods. These sensory experiences immediately connect us as both the creator and participant or as the observer, creating common thought processes and opening opportunities for communication and interaction. Music and movement have been utilized for years as educational, developmental, and social supports for young children and their families. This chapter further explores this creative realm and offers observations on how the visual arts may support and enhance family relationships through collaborative creativity and art making experiences.

Thankfully the arts have a natural ability to reach across borders and create connections. Music can speak across language barriers even if one cannot understand the lyrics. Dance, facial expressions and movement are universal, and visual art can communicate without words or sounds. This expressive ability has powerful potential within relationships and specifically within the realm of mental health and education when verbal and direct communication is not always possible or effective.

Relationship bonding and social attachment is essential from birth. Attachment is the mammalian capacity for an infant to depend on a parent for his or her survival. Determined by the limbic area of the brain, attachment is essential to bonding and full and holistic social development(Siegel, 2015, p. 141). Our social development is essentially “the way in which our brains remember the attachment relationship(s) we have had, or still have, and how we have adapted to these formative attachment experiences” (Siegel, 2015, p. 141).

Even “infants depend on their caregivers for healthy internal development” (Colle, 2013, p. 7), setting the foundation for a healthy internal development that has a lasting effect on our physical, mental, and emotional systems as we grow and mature. This long-term effect “makes it important for adults that did not have the chance to develop a healthy attachment to learn how to form a healthy stable attachment” (Colle, 2013, p. 7).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Whole Child Development: A development and educational approach that recognizes that socio-emotional, physical, creative, and cognitive capacities are all intertwined and equally important in ensuring a child's wellbeing, learning, and growth into an adult and member of society.

Collaborative Art-Making: Creative play or art-making that is a collaboration or interactive teamwork between two or more individuals. For those of non-verbal age or ability, this can become a visual conversation.

Holistic: Considering the whole, defined here as referring to health. Holistic health is made up of the domains of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When one domain is changed or impacted, all domains are affected.

Relationship: Relationship is defined here as the connection between individuals or the way people can become socially connected. Relationships have varying depth and intimacy that comes with intention, trust, and effort on behalf of the individuals involved.

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