Festival of Secrets:
Creative Encounters Through Interactive Education

By:
Souksan Somphy
Natalie McBride
Meghan Anderson
Buffy Siebel
Bekah McCann
Alberto Gutierrez

AIM Final Paper, Fall 2007

 

Arts-in-Medicine is still gaining recognition, especially among its large population outside of health care fields.  As a group, one of our goals was to bring awareness to this outside population about arts in medicine and use what we have all learned individually about various aspects of the application of art in medicine.  In brainstorming about possible ideas for the service learning project, we decided to settle on the Festival of Secrets, in which we felt we could each individually contribute what we have researched and inform individuals about our respective topics.  The focus of our festival was to integrate as many aspects of arts-in-medicine as possible and utilize the creative encounter for educating the public. The creative encounter is described by Patrice as “meeting another, be it patient, colleague, illness, environment, or idea, in openness, allowing for something new to be born.”  The challenge was to address integrative medicine, expressive art, psychosocial issues, pain, and energy medicine. Engaging the public with such a wide range of topical issues allowed for sucint experiences and many participants had the time to engage in several. In creating a space for artistic expression and disclosure, the Festival of Secrets served its purpose, allowing us to each interact and facilitate creative encounters for individuals who wished to participate.

Buffy and Bekah’s mural combined both of their individuals efforts for arts-in-medicine.  Buffy’s main goal was to educate the community about human reproductive physiology.  Bekah’s goal was to educate the community about emotional issues such as self-esteem and depression.  Their mural addressed the issues of pain, expressive arts, and communication and utilized the creative encounter to facilitate positive expression about these topics.  Both combined their efforts for the common goal of providing awareness about the UNM Arts-in-Medicine program. 

Souksan’s cranes combined elements of movement and disclosure in helping to foster creative encounters among the individuals who received them.  Making something beautiful as well as giving individuals the space to write and express themselves meets the aim of communicative and expressive art. This also worked toward integrating disclosure and its health benefits into a creative encounter. 

Natalie made up a flyer on five or six quick steps to a baby massage and stated helpful information and facts about how music and baby massage has healing effects on pre- and post-natal babies. She also set up a stereo to play music to further emphasize and bring attention to her topic.  Natalie’s topic addressed the issue of energy medicine and psychosocial issues regarding parent and child. 
Meghan brought supplies to assist in disclosure and release of secrets for those who had a burden to release.  She brought balloons and markers and asked individuals to write a secret on the balloon and pop it to signify their release.  Meghan’s project for the festival incorporated a small aspect of her research, which dealt with dance therapy, in that it utilized movement for release: the act of popping this balloon.  Her aspect of the festival contributed to the expressive and communication issues of arts-in-medicine. 

Alberto’s project involved the disclosure of secrets in an anonymous fashion, upon tiny slips of paper, collected, and later incorporated into a work of art.  Anonymous disclosure has been proven to be most effective in bringing health benefits to the participants. This aspect of the festival demonstrated manifestations of expressive art, pain, psychosocial issues, and communication in regards to arts-in-medicine.

The festival focused primarily on the UNM community: students, visitors, teachers, and staff; anyone willing to participate.  Eve as this was the most readily available group to reach out to, we found this population to be fully receptive to our project and interested in helping to reach one of the major goals, which was spreading the word about Arts-in-Medicine. 
           

The participants were recorded with video, photographs, and were all counted individually and tallied up.  In total, sixty-eight participants were recorded.  Their work was documented through the mural and the drawing made of secrets. These works of art demonstrate the participation of individuals in the festivities and the success found in engaging them in an expressive creative encounter. 

Though as a group success came through educating and engaging our UNM community, individually, the results express unique encounters with participants.  For Buffy and Bekah, the mural sparked creative encounters in several ways, each traceable through the lines, images, and colors used to create the art piece.  Visually, the facilitators were allowed to engage individuals in the hopes of creating a new piece of art to be born. The hope was for them to experience some form of healing through recognition.  The participants were met with health information and an open creative space in which they could visually explore the ideas presented to them.  The health factoids were colorfully presented in glass bowls, from with they were randomly drawn, and participants were provided with media to engage in a creative encounter.  
Souksan’s point of interest was in the aspect of secrets and release.  She had discovered what is known as a “wish crane” and saw casting a new meaning upon the crane was a fun idea.  Her cranes were interpreted through the form of an interpretive dance, the way they swung and swayed.  Souksan approached two individuals, one who was overwhelmed and kept thanking her for the little wonder.  In total, she created 39 secret wish cranes.  Alberto had started collecting secrets to begin an art piece and have it underway to entice others to contribute.  He provided slips of paper and writing utensils to allow individuals to disclose any secret they wished, and they were collected anonymously, in a large glass vase and used to complete the image.  Meghan’s colorful balloons and markers were provided to allow people to disclose and release their secret using movement to burst their secret to smithereens.  Natalie provided pamphlets she created herself and utilized music to entice individuals and offer them the information to use on their children.  She specifically targeted several individuals who were accompanied by their children to give them the helpful information on the health benefits of healing, massage, and music. 

Participation varied for the mural, with people who lingered and added to the mural for 10-15 minutes, focusing on creating a specific image or drawing several that spread across the space, while others contributed brief gestures and were on their way.  Others chose to simply listen and watch and learn about what was going on.  One gentleman listened and scolded us for representing an eye on the mural; he informed us that his tradition held a firm belief in the separation of heart and mind and that representations were problematic.  Another woman was passing by before meeting a professor of Art Education at UNM and wanted to share the information we had provided because the art therapy program at UNM was recently shut down.  This woman was a part of the art therapy program and found our information very interesting.  With the cranes, Souksan experienced disappointment when a young man ignored her.  She felt crushed and rejected in simply offering to engage someone in a beneficial process.  One encounter between Bekah and an older man brought frustration; he said that art was a waste of time and said he did not understand why people do it.  This man then proceeded to tell her that the people on campus are ignorant and worthless.  Meghan changed her initial plan to release secrets in helium balloons, for the purposes of reducing litter, and opted to provide balloons for popping.  Unfortunately, not many people chose to participate in her aspect of the festival, but the ones that did seemed to have a small burden lifted off their hearts and minds.  Meghan spoke with a number of people and explained what Arts-in-Medicine is, a great accomplishment for herself, being a self-described shy individual.  One man specifically asked her for a handout on Natalie’s information because, as he informed her, he has an infant at home and had heard about infant massage from others.  After the event was taken down, Meghan overheard someone walk by and say to their friend that they were disappointed that we had already left.  Alberto had difficulty engaging individuals in disclosing secrets to him, even after putting up a sign asking people to tell him their secrets.  However, when the crowd grew larger, many individuals were willing to disclose their secrets, supporting his research findings that individuals are very willing to disclose in an anonymous setting. He collected a sufficient amount to complete his drawing.  One man even approached him and asked if he had further information about the quotes placed on the poster for the festival regarding health benefits, and the man was immediately given a packet of information for further probing of our topics.  Natalie handed one gentleman pushing a baby in a stroller the brochure she made, and he reacted with an attitude. She explained that she had noticed he had a baby with him and that she had some helpful information about music and massage for healing babies. He walked to the end of the plaza and she saw him throw away a drink in a trash can and thought he was chucking away her brochure. However, he began to read it and Natalie couldn’t believe it. It made her day.  Natalie noticed he may have thrown it away after reading it by the trash, but hopes he learned something new. Natalie measured her success in educating at least one individual about the aspect of music and massage, and this man appeared to have embodied that.

During the festival, the participation was quantitatively recorded in various respects.  The resulting image from the collaborative mural was viewed by the group as a success; we managed to get individuals to completely cover the 8ft. x 4ft. board with a large number of strokes from a brush, pastel, or pencil.  Natalie disseminated most of her brochures, of which she made about sixty.  Meghan had a dozen individuals pop balloons for the purpose of disclosure.  Souksan’s cranes, which were 39 in total, were revered for their beauty and a dozen or so were utilized by various individuals.  Alberto collected thirty secrets, with 5 individuals indicating, on the questionnaire behind the slips of paper, that they felt relief, 2 that were not sure, and none that said no.  To the surprise of many of us in the group, the numbers we tallied of participants was surprising.  More men than women were engaged in our festival, 36:32, and further enhanced our success by providing a population, males, who are generally less communicative and less likely to seek help or therapy, with an opportunity for engagement and education.  When discussing our goals, we initially intended to influence and affect the population of young adults, 18-25, being that we assumed they’d be most receptive to our intentions.  We collected this data by numerically tallying individuals we came across who engaged in our project based on their appearance and age ranges we decided upon, 18-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46 and older, which could easily and quickly be recorded.  Approximately 87 percent of our participants were in our targeted age range demographic.  A surprising age range we encountered and who engaged in our festival was the older adults, which we identify as 46+.  All of our goals had been accomplished, but for each of us personally, the event evolved from its initial conception.

We all had preconceived notions about how the event would look and function.  For Bekah, she was worried that we were not going to be able to live up to the expectations we created while first discussing and planning the event.  She pictured an enormous event with a grandiose amount of people and things to do.  Souksan found that the most personable individuals in the class were in our group, and decided to participate in the festival.  Her thoughts on the overall outcome of the project are of satisfaction.  For her, we accomplished something that we can look back on and grow upon.  Souksan found she would tweak things to produce a better product outcome, demonstrating potential for improvement and even greater success.  For Alberto, there was no other option, and there was no question about how he would interpret the creative encounter and utilize it in a community setting. The festival was a natural extension of the thinking process, and he found it would be a creative way to incorporate various topics of research.  In his mind, the festival was a grand-scale hoopla, with tons of things to do and see.  Meghan found his presentation on secrets and disclosure top notch, and found the title, “Festival of Secrets,” to be most interesting.  After getting together with the others interested in the festival, various ideas were put forth about what the word “festival” meant.  Meghan saw it as a gathering of people who would be given the opportunity to heal themselves through creative release.  Natalie didn’t know what to expect. Some people were interested and some were not. She stood in the middle of the plaza and said various things to people walking by, “Do you want to join our arts in medicine festival for a few minutes?” Or, “Do you want to draw on our mural?” When she mentioned arts in medicine, people would ask, “What’s that?” So, that gave her the opportunity to explain what it is and what we were doing there. She would hand them a brochure she made about baby massage and music. Some people were interested in that and she would then regurgitate facts from memory about how healing music and massage can be for pre and post-natal babies. For Natalie, she walked away feeling like we actually helped people and spread the word about arts in medicine.

The outcome, though it differed from many of our initial ideas and hopes for an extravagant event, served its purpose, most successfully: we informed our peers and members of the UNM community and created awareness about arts in medicine.  We also helped benefit individuals who participated by providing self awareness/health awareness and stress-relief information.  The success of the festival may have paved a road to continue engaging the community, providing incentive for further development of arts-in-medicine and community outreach; and engaging a number of different communities outside the health and medical field.

Here is our statistical data:

numbers

 

percentage

age range

males

females

 

age range

males

females

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 - 25

30

29

 

18 - 25

44.12

42.65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 - 35

2

1

 

26 - 35

2.94

1.47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

36 - 45

2

2

 

36 - 45

2.94

2.94

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

46+

2

0

 

46+

2.94

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

total participants

68

 

 

 

In the future, it would be a great idea to do another festival about arts-in-medicine on welcome back days at UNM and for orientation. This year we lucked out for the weather. The festival took place on November 28, 2007. The day before was windy and rainy. The day of the event was chilly, but the sun was out. The day after our event, the weather was back to getting on with its bad self.
            Overall, the “Festival of Secrets” was a success in all possible aspects. As a group, we enjoyed the experience of interacting with the community about a very important field.