Creativity as Salvation

Posted on November 19, 2012
Davida, the author, with Jeff on the panel at Performing the World. Davida, the author, with Jeff on the panel at Performing the World.Shakespeare said, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” From October 4-7, 2012, the theme of the Performing the World 2012 conference was “Can performance SAVE the world?” Hosted by the All Stars Project and the East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy, performers, social workers, therapists, cultural workers, and other professionals from 37 countries answered the question in a series of workshops that ran the spectrum from “Mad World: Voices from Middle School,” to “The Role of the Play in Human Creativity and Development: Lagos State University Theatre Arts Experience,” to “Training Convicts to Be Community Based Theatre Facilitators as a Means to Reintegration in the Community.” 
On Friday, October 5th,  Jeff Aron, Director of External Affairs; Alan Doyle, Director of Education; Susan McKeown, a Dublin-born, singer/songwriter/Grammy winner; and I offered a panel titled, “Clubs, Communities, Culture: Creating Our Response to Mental Illness.” Our panel addressed the issue of how community and creativity can change the meaning and experience of mental illness. 
Susan’s song, “Good Old World Blues,” (poetry by Hayden Carruth) from her latest CD, Singing In The Dark was playing in the background as interested parties entered the room. Jeff, who facilitated our panel, opened the discussion by talking about what is community and creativity and how each played a role in the day-to-day life of those who come to Fountain House. Alan expounded on this theme in a personal way by asking himself, “Am I only an actor at Fountain House during office hours who went off-stage when it was time for him to go home at the end of the day, or am I a permanent cast member in the play that is mental illness?”

This was my second time being on a panel with Jeff in Performing the World, and each time I’ve written a special prose poem for the event; this year I wrote a poem entitled “In My ‘Hood”, which goes, in part, like this: 

I’ll soon be back to hanging doll body parts from shadowboxes. As if I could ever leave. As if the world could keep on surviving with less art when what it really needed was more. An act of art created the world, it would take many more to keep it spinning on its head. 
Susan spoke last, about how, for her latest CD, she’d set poems that famous poets had written about mental illness to music. The songs are haunting, but Susan gives them voice that resonates with possible salvation.  
Following our discussion, the floor was opened to the audience. Many people spoke of how they used creativity in their organizations or how they saw creativity could be used. I was much impressed with Alan’s introspection as it is always interesting to me how those who don’t live with a mental disorder find common ground with people who do. 

Jeff is always erudite about creativity and Fountain House, and how the two are perfect partners when it comes to the rhythm of the mind. I’m always thrilled with meeting my creative national and international brothers and sisters, and learning new ways of doing cultural and mental health work that does not necessarily involve medication as an intervention. 

Davida Adedjouma, LMSW
Education Unit and Board of Directors, Fountain House


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