A podcast dedicated to healing through art
By Alexis Zygan, Staff Writer
“If someone is taking an aspirin, they’re candidates for the choir.”
Art Heals is a podcast guided by musician and music producer Earle Peach and hosted by Elaine Joe, who works as an accompanist for the Highs and Lows, a low-barrier mental health choir. The idea for the podcast arose from a symposium where members of the mental health community gathered alongside artists and musicians. After this event, Peach reached out to Joe about hosting the podcast. In a phone interview with the Other Press, Joe says, “I thought it would be a one-off that turned into an ongoing project.” Journalist Serena Renner is the co-producer who writes the script, conducts pre-interviews, and supports Joe with sharpening her interviewing skills. Laurence Richard is behind the podcast’s design and distribution.
The team is entirely comprised of volunteers and they produce the podcast to destigmatize mental health, share resources, and explore the insights that arise from creativity. The Art Heals podcast has interviewed guests who have spoken about circus art, songwriting, composing soundscapes, and singing in choirs. As a host, Joe was surprised with how willing guests were to talk honestly about their trials and tribulations. The Art Heals team’s expertise in music and journalism has enabled pristine sound quality within the outdoor recording setting.
The latest episode of Art Heals, released on February 27, features sylvi macCormac “aka elviS,” an artist who found solace in recording soundscapes after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Unable to play guitar with her touring band, she suffered from depression. The interview with sylvi begins in Stanley Park and takes the listener along a journey that showcases the sounds of the park: children playing and birds chirping. In the podcast, macCormac openly shares her story with Joe; however, not all intimate details make the final cut.
Elaine encourages folks to experiment with artistic expression even if they do not identify as creative because practicing creativity can be as simple as doodling on a notepad or jotting down ideas on paper. “I am a big believer in journaling. When I am feeling anxious, I write things down, so they leave my brain. I also find it to be a therapeutic way to discover repeating patterns,” shares Joe. After years of consistent journaling, the entries transformed into poetry. As a professional pianist, her piano doubles as a therapist and friend. “Within minutes of playing piano, I know how I’m feeling mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. My instrument becomes an extension of myself—much like a paintbrush may for an artist, or a chisel for a woodworker.
The Art Studios is a mental health program in Vancouver that supports recovery by engaging with a variety of art practices. Elaine witnessed firsthand how transformative art has been for a friend who joined Art Studios and then transitioned into a teaching role. “My friend has really blossomed, pouring energy into her art. It gives her a safe haven from her mental health and family issues.”
The podcast’s original audience was those who struggle with mental health. Elaine notes that it is often difficult to recognize if someone has a mental health challenge. Also, not everyone is aware of their mental illness and could benefit from some creative therapy, which could be as simple as listening to music, meditating, or dancing. For those that suffer from depression or chronic anxiety, it’s probably a good idea to consult a counselor or psychiatrist. This is precisely why the podcast is crucial for helping folks embrace creativity to cope with mental health symptoms.
Regarding whom the podcast is for, Elaine refers to a quote from Peach: “If someone is taking an aspirin, they’re candidates for the choir.” In other words, the choir is open to everyone. It is vital to recognize that mental illness impacts every individual differently. “I hope that people get a better understanding of the variety of mental health issues out there. When you are pouring your passion into something you love doing, you are going to feel freer and happier.” Mental illness is a spectrum that impacts each person differently. Art is just one avenue to direct oneself when facing extended alone time. Thankfully we don’t need to sign up for a class as all resources are a click away.