“Whenever illness is associated with the loss of soul, the arts emerge spontaneously as remedies. Pairing art and medicine stimulates the creation of a discipline through which imagination treats itself and recycles its vitality back to daily living.”

This is the opening paragraph of the book “Art as Medicine.” The premise being that art aids an individual to heal, which is supported by scientists. How far reaching is the healing power of art? Can art heal a community?

There are numerous examples of how art has been used for large-scale healing. To name a few: after the 2013 Boston marathon, an Art Marathon Project was started honoring the first responders and the victims.

There’s the Aids Quilt project, the Clothesline Project for victims of violence, and the Paint by Numbers Project to remember 9/11 victims. These projects — and many more — exemplify the way art has been used on a large scale to help members of communities heal. In addition, art can actually heal the very foundation of a town in numerous ways. To list a few:

Art helps with neighborhood beautification and drives economic development.

Art portrays community; it creates a sense of pride, increases business and brings in tourism.

Art documents community history and promotes diversity of culture.

Art helps to build personal and professional relationships.

Art is inspired by community and reflects the community back.

Art encourages engagement in community activity.

Art gives community something to share with others and art entertains and brings joy to community.

When I became president of the Belen Art League in January 2018, the Belen Art League Gallery was the lone soldier standing on a street proclaimed to be Belen’s Art District. The gallery was surrounded by empty, and some derelict, buildings on either side and across the street.

In the space of 12 months, there’s been a tremendous transformation. Across the street is the newly opened Studio 508. The brick building west of the gallery now houses Books on Becker and will soon include the home of the Bugg Light display.

Just recently, the old city hall to our east side has been registered as a historic building and its clean-up will commence in March. A few blocks up the street, Jaramillo Winery opened its doors, and soon the Through the Flower Art Space will be in business.

Our town mayor recently told me that he sees the BAL as the heart of the art district. Indeed, we are the hub of the hubba hubba. Some synonyms for hub are: center, central, core, epicenter, eye, heart, locus and seat. Mayor Cordova chose the best descriptor.

The Belen Art League is proud to be the epicenter of our community’s Art District and will continue to welcome the growth of new art endeavors along Becker Avenue as we contribute to the rejuvenation of our community.

Please join us on March 23 to start renovating the old city hall and again at our Scholarship Tea on March 24. Tickets on sale now for $10.

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