Why We All Need The Arts In A Crisis. Part 1. By Dr Linda Berman



David Hockney – Sur la Terrasse [1971] Gandalf’s Gallery.Flickr.

“Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics. It brings healing.”

Susan Griffin

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ” Twyla Tharp

How can the Arts in general help us through this crisis? How can paintings, photographic art, culture, poetry, literature, music and creative dance ease our way through the weeks and months of this pandemic? What can they teach us?

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. “

Edgar Degas

The Arts are, fundamentally, about life and about humanity. They reflect our world, inspire, stir memory, give meaning, bring pleasure, take us out of ourselves into another dimension, allow us new perspectives and hope.

They light our way through, and now, more than ever, we need light and hope.


Pablo Picasso Yellow Irises. Gandalf’s Gallery Flickr.

The Arts As A Healing Force.

When we are feeling low, we often turn to music, to art, online or in books, to literature, or to poetry. The Arts help us see things differently; they can transport us out of the current disruption into other times, other ways of thinking. 

“The country is so wounded, bleeding, and hurt right now. The country needs to be healed—it’s not going to be healed from the top, politically. How are we going to heal? Art is the healing force.”

Robert Redford, National Arts Policy Roundtable 2012

All the different aspects of the Arts add colour and comfort into our life. Music adds harmony and relaxation, healing, balance and timing. 

“Music is…… A higher revelation than all Wisdom and Philosophy.”


Do take some time out now and listen to this beautiful Grieg Piano Concerto II in the video below. Take note of how you feel as you hear its mellifluous harmonies, its gentle crescendos, its deep and velvet tones:

Feeling moved? Calmed? Uplifted? Comforted during the time of Coronavirus? If only for a few minutes, I do hope that you felt something healing and heartening.

You have only to look at the rapturous expressions on the face of the pianist, Arthur Rubinstein, to gain an understanding of the effect of such music on the musicians themselves.

“We have art so that we shall not die of reality.”


Literature and drama also may transport us into another world, offering us the gift of stories. Stories can be healing and enlightening.

“The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.”

Carl Gustav Jung.

Poetry may both soothe and disturb us in a way that makes us think and feel. Paintings add fresh dimensions to our lives and make us wonder about their message.

All of these can inspire, delight, disturb and fascinate us. 

In whatever way, the arts can take us out of ourselves, whether it is through comfort or intellectual or emotional arousal.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Banksy

The Arts can also make us healthier.

“A new study called ‘Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines,’ published in the journal Emotion, found that activities that inspire awe may actually boost the immune system.”

Laura C. Mallonee

“The medical profession has come a long way in recognizing the healing benefits of art. My hope is that someday the arts will be considered as significant in everyone’s lives as breathing fresh air, eating clean foods, and performing physical exercise.”

Renée Phillips

Through the various media, we  can time travel into different eras, different worlds. We can begin to regain a little balance, remember who we are, gain from others’ experience.

Art, music, photographs and dance are all used as forms of therapy. They can all be employed in ways that heal.

Poetry is used as a prescription for ills by William Sieghart in his book The Poetry Pharmacy. He sees poetry as a companion in times of need. In his introduction he quotes Alan Bennett:

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things- which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”



Sieghart believes that poetry can be healing and ‘prescribes’ certainly poems for specific ills. The poem below is offered as a remedy for the ‘condition’ of ‘a need for reassurance,’ with symptoms such as ‘anxiety, depression, general fear, fear of mortality and pessimism.’

I imagine that many of us may have had some of these feelings during this crisis.

Watch Fleabag star Andrew Scott reading the poem below very movingly.

“Everything is going to be all right.’ By Derek Mahon.


Everything is Going to be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon, from Selected Poems

It must be emphasised here that in some circumstances, reassurance may not be appropriate and the hope that certain things will get better seems out of reach. There are occasions when we do need to lose hope, especially if our expectations are unrealistic.

However, we do all need to hold onto some realistic hope during a crisis and to have people around us, or maybe online,  to help us do that and to contain our feelings for us.

Let us hope that the words of this poem are proved to be right and true.

Let us hope that the sun will shine on us and that, ultimately, everything, as far as is possible and without giving false hopes, will be all right.


Renoir. Dance at the Moulin de la Galette. Wikimedia Commons.

©Linda Berman


  1. Again …. an interesting post with compilation of wonderful quotes, pics and music. Always feel uplifted after reading your words. Particularly like the Alan Bennet quote, says it all!

    Liked by 1 person

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