Art as Advocacy

Patient advocacy doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach. Art is an underrated form of patient advocacy that can be beneficial, not only for the artist, but also for the communities at large that surround them.

Art can be used as advocacy, and is especially beneficial for patient leaders. As people living with certain chronic medical conditions, we are likely to have physical limitations. These limitations can worsen, especially when we are not investing time and effort into taking care of ourselves. Art can be used as self-care and advocacy all at once.

Art is accessible

This accessibility means that patient advocates that would otherwise be unable to share their experience of living with their condition, are able to do so through a variety of mediums depending on what works best for them. Some of my favorite art mediums include acrylic paints on stretched canvas, watercolor paints, magazine collages, and oil pastels. When I am especially low-energy and unable to manage set-up and clean-up for these (more messy) mediums, I switch to other art mediums such as crotchet, poetry, sketching, and journaling.

Art is a powerful way to process emotions

A fellow artist with narcolepsy claims that art helps them to get their emotions out in a healthy way. I can attest to the healing nature of art. Making art means that I have a safe way to express my emotions. Art can be a useful tool for patient advocates to express themselves. When we express ourselves artistically, we create a safe space upon which we can heap our emotional baggage. And in return, we can feel lighter for it.

Art creates community connections

When using art to express emotions, it is possible to make connections with people through your art who are also dealing with similar emotions. Art can help connect people and help them feel less alone in what they are dealing with. For example, one of my favorite artists is a disabled person. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist that painted self-portraits depicting both her physical and spiritual pain. Her portraits are special to me, because of how much I can relate to the emotions behind them. Her paintings continue to be a source of inspiration and strength for me and many others.

Art sparks conversations

When art shares a story, it makes people think. One of my friends that uses art for narcolepsy advocacy says that their biggest goal is to make people "wonder" and ask why the piece exists, or what it is trying to convey. This is especially useful for patient advocacy. Through art, we can share a snapshot of our experience with disability or chronic illness. People tend to be receptive to the emotions behind art.

Art is healing

When I am feeling overwhelmed by my past or present struggles, I can make a piece of art to represent the difficult time. By doing so, I create something beautiful from my pain. This is empowering. It makes me feel like I have some sort of control in my life. When I take my inner life and existence and use it as material to create external art, I feel like I can take on anything.

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