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Sustainable Art Exhibition and Workshop promotes holistic health through art

Art isn’t only a reliable way for people to express themselves but also is a strong healing outlet. It can be a good way for people to visualize their feelings about the most personal of subjects and is a great tool to boost mental health.

Lisa Lej has seen this first-hand, having worked with countless children who have behavioural challenges and giving them an outlet to channel their emotions positively through art.

For Lej, who started painting right after high school, sustainability and art go hand-in-hand, which is why she’s the brainchild behind the Sustainable Art Exhibition and Workshop, an initiative dedicated to helping people live healthier, both mentally and physically, using art as a tool of wellness.

We sat down with Lej earlier this week to talk about the upcoming Sustainable Art Exhibition and Workshop at the beginning of May and why she was driven to do this.

Q: Hi Lisa. A pleasure to talk to you about this project. Tell us more about the idea behind it? 

A: The idea behind having the Sustainable Art Exhibition and Workshop came from the passion to provide a holistic approach to sustainability using art as a tool to gravitate people together and also a tool for  Holistic Health. 

Over the years of working with children with behavioural challenges such as Autism, I have realized that art was the only way of capturing their attention and giving them the inspiration for participating in various activities. During the course of last year, I heard the news that a boy was beaten to death by his stepfather. This made me so sad and this somewhat empowered me to share more insights on mental health helping others to understand and empathize with what others go through. A person who inflicts pain on others doesn’t necessarily want to but in the moment it’s a cry for help by showing another how heavy this pain is that they carry on their shoulders.

One day while conducting a coastal clean up I heard the voice of God say to me that the environment is a reflection of our souls and minds and I found this to be so true because along the shores I found so many alcohol bottles, syringes, cigarette buts and other apparatus affiliated with drugs. People take drugs to numb their pain. According to drugfreeworld.org, “They think drugs are a solution. But eventually, the drugs become the problem.”

Studies have shown that a holistic approach to wellness is true health and wellness and that being well has many dimensions. I have also seen many times people littering right next to an empty bin. So there is a psychological issue where littering is concerned. When we feel bad about ourselves it shows in our attitude and how we carry ourselves which then manifests itself in how we treat each other and our environment.

The promotion of Sustainability is important and for this to be effective we have to approach this from the source of our mental health and the environment.

2. We understand that you started painting at age 17. What motivated you to get into art? 

I started the business of offering my art for sale after the death of my father to help with my tertiary education. I was born with a passion for creativity and my parents invested in that growth and development. I have been scribbling on walls since I was in a diaper I can remember, circa 3 years old. I then did my very first still life at 5 with a pencil of Mickey Mouse photo that was on my mom’s blouse. She was impressed and shared with the family who encouraged her to get me sketch pads and colouring booking along with paints and other art supplies which kept me very busy creating. I was fascinated with Walt Disney and enchantment by the fairytales so I kept creating. 

After the passing of my dad, I didn’t realise how deeply it affected me but I went into isolation. I was too focused on getting good grades as I was in the middle of my CXC preparation for the big exam and I was working towards a Scholarship to continue my tertiary education in Fine arts in the USA. I was driven and nothing was going to stop me from getting a good GPA of 3.5 and I did. But then my health was depleting and western medicine helped a lot but wasn’t enough. I need more. 

I was introduced to holistic health and wellness and yoga practice at that time over 10 years ago by an amazing designer, Paula Herlock who is also an Alternative & Holistic Health Service. I had an awesome experience and I continued this practice over the years and decided to go on a spiritual journey to India where I lived in the shram for a couple of months studying the lifestyle of Ayurvedic Medicine which is an energy medicine that focuses on the science of life. 

I also had to change my diet to continue to live a mental, physical and psychologically pain-free life. I never spoke about the passing of my dad because I was told not to expose my vulnerability. In yoga I found a beautiful community of lightworkers who helped me to use my so-called vulnerability and make it my strength. I now have a vibrant supportive community of like spirits who helped me to meditate and journey deep into my subconscious and find what the root of my illness was and it was my unexpressed emotions that manifested itself into physical illnesses. 

I now feel amazing and decided to take a swerve in the arts and entertainment and continue my major in holistic health and wellness so that I can professionally help to preserve mother earth and help to bring across the message of responsible consumption.

God has always gifted me with jobs in providing Art Therapy for those in need and so I along with my amazing team started a registered non-profit that aims at preserving the environment using culture and art because our environment directly impacts the way we think and feel and approach life this ripple right through our mind and body and spirit and creates a cycle and visa versa. It’s a complete 360-degree approach to sustainability.

Q: One of the things we noticed when we saw the graphic for this initiative is that ‘Art is a tool of wellness. Let us show you how.’ Why, in your mind, is art a tool of wellness? 

A: COVID-19 has taught me many things as I used art to keep my mind and body active during the lockdowns and manage to have a stable income from grants gifted by organizations that strongly carry out their Corporate Social Responsibility in sponsoring sustainable projects. 

Nasa reported a dramatic increase in the air quality in China within weeks of the lockdown which shows us that we are directly connected to our environment and so If we pollute our air we will become sick so if we respect nature and keep it clean we will become stronger and happier.

Q. How much can art be a positive contributor to mental health in particular? 

A. In today’s western medical world things are changing and I learned in my studies that Complementary Alternative  Medicine is being recommended by doctors in the USA, Jamaica and globally to help boost their treatment (medication, surgery, therapy, etc.) 

Art is being used in many ways such as: Movement art in meditation and fitness for weight loss, cardio boost, strength, visual arts for therapy in safely expressing emotions especially in autism, liberal art for journaling and creative writing and more. We see that people who get tattoos and intricate piercings all have a story to share and this is their release.

Q: While meeting artists and seeing some of their pieces for this project, what have they told you about how art has helped them heal? 

A: I was invited to a Celebrity Art Exhibition fundraising for autistic children of abuse in Manhattan around 2016 where I met another artist who was being exhibited who had a series of paintings that expressed the pain she suffered from scoliosis at the time I was having chronic back pains and though it was abstract I felt that connection and afterwards I read the description and learned how backaches are connected with the diet and emotions as the spine is the central nervous system and we feel sensations because of the neurological responses to stimulus and our brains. 

Autism is a neurological disorder that creates a series of conditions and environmental factors as well as nutrition that highly impacts an autistic individual. It is very important to cut out gluten and dairy and just any processed food overall. Spend ample time in nature as the natural elements are here to cleanse our minds, body and spirits of negative emotions. The beach is such a joyful place to be.

Q: What would you say to anyone who’s considering participating in this project?

A: The first Sustainable Art Exhibition was launched in 2018 at the Bayview Eco Resort and was successful as our aim is to provide free information surrounding sustainability and inspire others to live an ecological lifestyle through responsible consumption and repurposing of waste.

We also are able to continue our eco-action projects (free upcycle plastic bottle workshop and beach clean up ) from a percentage of the proceeds. Giving back is the backbone of what we do and we call it giving forwards because there is still time to reverse climate change with everyone’s help; people want to help but they don’t know how to, so we are here to show you how “one one coco full basket” in other words the little efforts do add up collectively. 

After speaking with Maia Chung, who was so warm and uplifting I felt a connection and was so uplifted and empowered to do something surrounding autism month. I remember when I was a child and watching her on TV and how grounded she was and open to sharing her beautiful journey, that inspired me a lot. 

Also,  I had been having talks with various groups and I find that there is a collective consciousness growing surrounding this area and now with covid 19 mental health has become a huge issue. Many of us have lost loved ones and have plunged into depression with no clue of how to manage their mental health.

It is not easy to find free mental health care so we use the opportunity to share some tips on staying grounded during unprecedented times. We are here for each other and the world is indeed a safe place depending on how we perceive it and we do attract what we think, so a positive mentality is very crucial for life’s success and happiness.

We are having 3rd chapter of this exhibition May 1, 2022 at the Bayview Eco Resort which starts with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to close Autism month and open mental health month, also as a symbol of putting an end to stigmas attached to Autism and other mental health issues and we are making it bigger, into an Unplugged weekend retreat and invite participants to book weekend (2nights) of wellness experience using various forms of art as a tool for transformation. Art makes everything so pleasant and I am happy to share my wellness with you so see you soon.

Namaste (The Divine in me Welcomes the Divine in You)

 

   

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Written by Jodee Brown

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