Donna Bliss Interview with Carol Austin, PHD Clinical Psychology, TACHP Faculty “Your Brain Your Art”

NorthShore University HealthSystem February Blog:

February 10, 2020:  Donna Bliss Interview with Carol Austin, PHD Clinical Psychology, TACHP Faculty “Your Brain Your Art”

Carol is an artist and psychologist who works with her students to explore the unique relationship between creativity and the brain.  Described as “mind blowing”, this class stimulates creativity, stretch the mind, and help overcome blocks to understand how we think and process information. Carol also focuses on exploration and personal discovery and to foster cooperative group processing and sharing.

Donna: “Carol, tell us about the impact of creativity on our brain and general outlook on life.”

Carol: This class, “Your Brain Your Art” aims to help everyone think and process information.  For example a Left Brain person processes one way, and a Right Brain student processes their way, both can use creativity to slow the aging process”.

Donna:  That is intriguing, we all want to stay young and vibrant.  Can you explain how that works?”

Carol: Trying new things stimulates the brain function, enhances memory and helps the aging brain.  We don’t really forget things, our brains are just on overload, so it take longer to remember.  When I deal with aging students I sometime hear, ‘Nothing interests me, I’m complacent, or I need to try something new.’ If your brain is healthy you will try new things.”

Donna:  What is the specific link between art and creativity and brain function:”

Carol:  Ask yourself how many hours did you spend in school leaning history? How many hours did you spend learning to make decisions, or how much time does it take you to process information?  Using that same amount of time being creative will give you insights that will help you in your creative expression, and slow down the aging process.”


Carol Austin teaches, “Your Brain Your Art” at The Art Center Highland Park, and will offer that class for the Spring Session.

The Link Between the Arts, Health and Wellness

The Link Between the Arts, Health and Wellness 

Health and Wellness programs underwritten by NorthShore University HealthSystem


Nutrition and exercise seem to be the buzz words for being healthy and maintaining mental wellness. Our advice includes having a good sleep routine, practicing relaxation, and having a good social network.  Are you looking for something else to add to your toolbox? Why not try the arts?

The Arts, Health and Wellness

The link between the arts and health and well-being goes back many years.  In fact, the use of the arts in health has been increasing for the past thirty years. The “arts” are more than just drawing and painting. They include music, dance and movement, writing, sculpture, woodwork, mosaics, jewelry making, fiber art printmaking and more.

At The Art Center Highland Park those activities are all under one roof. You don’t need to be an “artist” or a professional crafts person to benefit from doing these activities. The act of being creative is the key and it can help decrease everyday stress and anxieties. Participating in the arts can also help with depression, increase positive emotions and, in some cases, even improve immune system functioning. And, if you create art within a group setting, you can form supportive relationships and friendships. Creativity is increasingly being validated as a potent mind-body approach to address a variety of challenges. Why not give it a try?

Try a Winter Class

Beat your Cabin Fever and check out our classes that will get your feet tapping, your brain working and let you walk out feeling energized and creative.

New dance classes:

  • Adult Swing and Foxtrot Class, guaranteed to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face
  • Adult Cha Cha and Tango Class: put a Latin beat to your winter blues

Feeling musical, try one of these classes:

  • The Basics of Blues Guitar
  • Creative Guitar Ensemble for Beginners
  • Life Rhythms Drum Circle

To get your creative juices flowing:

  • Illustrated Words
  • Your Brain Your Art
  • The Joy Project: Art and Wellness
  • Journaling for Self Care

When you are ready to become a professional artist find the opportunities here:

Art and Healing Network  Click here
The Arts and Healing Network offers a list of possible grant and sponsorship opportunities through a robust database that is searchable by location and media.  The database is extensive and covers many different venues. It’s worth exploring.

Health and Wellness programs underwritten by NorthShore University HealthSystem

Easy Ways To Make Your Art Accessible To Everyone

Easy Ways To Make Your Art Accessible To Everyone

by: Katlyn Eriksen

Creating or simply appreciating art can do so much to feed the mind and soul, which is why it’s important that everyone should be able to experience it, despite any physical limitations. Because of this, museums all over the world are now taking concrete steps to provide a satisfying experience for those who are visually impaired, as well as for people who have mobility challenges. The Wellcome Collection, in particular, is making headlines as the New York Times notes that this science and medicine London institution could be the most accessible museum in the world right now. With display heights strategically planned to accommodate wheelchair users, audio and visual guides, and exhibits that include items that can be touched, it’s clear to see why visitors are flocking to this museum: the institution makes it very clear that accessibility has a place in art. 

Whether you’re a seasoned artist or are looking to showcase your art for the first time, you too can make your art accessible to everyone. With some planning and strategy, you can help those with physical limitations experience art in the best way. 

Choose your location wisely

Having good lighting and adequate space is key to having a successful art exhibition, but to make it accessible, pick a place located on the ground floor. If that’s not possible, make sure to book a place where there are lifts in the building. Having no steps or ramps within the exhibit space can also help those with mobility issues move around better. 

Enlist the help of a sign language interpreter

Letting people know that your exhibit is disability-friendly through an accessible and easy to navigate webpage can get the word out and give people with disabilities a general idea about what to expect from the event. On your website or social media page, make sure to specifically list the accessibility provisions, and provide your contact details so those with questions about it can get in touch with you. As more people will be going to your exhibit, have a plan in place to ensure that even those who are impaired can communicate with you and other artists. If you know someone who is fluent in sign language, ask them if they can help out at the exhibit, or you can hire a sign language interpreter. The standard rate of a sign language interpreter is currently at around $27 per hour, so make sure to have a budget in place.

Guide them well

On the day of the exhibit, make sure that doors are kept wide open so wheelchair users can move around, and have an evacuation plan in place in case of an emergency. Instead of pre-recorded audio guides, the artist and those who are familiar with the artist’s work should serve as exhibit tour guides, as they can vividly describe a piece of art to those with visual impairments. Placing Braille descriptions near paintings or installations can also help those with partial or total vision loss to get more information. 

Art should be an inclusive experience as it does so much to improve a person’s well-being. Try following these tips to make art accessible to everyone, and to help build a more equal and diverse art community.

Show you care, Be Aware!

TACHP has recently partnered with NorthShore University HealthSystem to communicate the strong relationship between the arts and Health and Wellness.  Through this partnership, TACHP wants to join our partners to spread the word about breast cancer awareness and the importance of getting your annual screening mammogram.

With a dedication to breast cancer prevention, NorthShore’s Center for Breast Health team places an emphasis on early detection. NorthShore’s Center for Breast Health performs more than 90,000 mammograms annually at our screening facilities located across the Chicago area, including downtown Chicago, in Nordstrom at Old Orchard shopping mall and our Center for Breast Health at each of our hospitals. Same-day screening mammogram appointments are often available, as well as fast-track scheduling for diagnostic procedures and appointments with breast surgeons.

As a preeminent imaging center in the Chicago region, and an industry leader in breast cancer prevention, NorthShore provides:

  • State-of-the-art breast imaging technology, including breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography), ultrasound, MRI and automated whole breast ultrasound (ABUS) for women with dense breasts
  • All images interpreted by dedicated breast radiologists, which research shows improves the rate of cancer detection

TACHP will offer a weekend ‘space’ in our galleries for health care professionals who are willing to offer resources and information concerning women’s health.

Watch this space for details about a woman’s health event, an honest discussion about breast cancer, its consequences, available resources, and other women’s health issues. Nutritionists, women’s health experts and others can take part in the event.  You can be a part of it during our Voices and Visions exhibit next Spring.

Reach out via email:

See these resources:

NorthShore University HealthSystem Breast Cancer Resources

Fact Checking: Debunking Mammogram Myths

The Art Center Highland Park and NorthShore University HealthSystem Partner for Health and Wellness Curriculum

The Art Center Highland Park and NorthShore University HealthSystem Partner for Health and Wellness Curriculum

The Art Center Highland Park sees the intrinsic link between creative expression and wellness, plus the trend of an aging population in the area as an opportunity to expand. That’s why they are partnering with NorthShore University HealthSystem to expand their Health and Wellness curriculum.

“I was looking for a corporate partner for this new expansion and my attention was drawn to NorthShore University HealthSystem’s core mission, ‘to preserve and improve human life’. There is great synergy with our goals as artists, so I reached out to them,” says Donna Bliss, Director of Development for TACHP.  “Their direct activities to achieve this mission are achieved through the provision of superior clinical care, academic excellence and innovative research and our activities are to create challenging programs that activate the brain, creativity and create community. We’re going ‘full spectrum’ on healthy living.”

While NorthShore launched their initiative Healthy You, an online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life, TACHP expanded their curriculum from three to nine Health and Wellness Classes, offered in multiple days and times, plus workshops.

Healthy You covers a range of topics from

  • 6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
  • Healthy Eating on a Budget
  • How to Maximize the changes of Daylight Savings Time

TACHP offers the following:

  • The Art of Play (and Intro to the Art of Play
  • Word Play
  • The Joy Project
  • Sketchbook Journaling
  • Your Brain, Your Art
  • Life Rhythms Drum and Singing Circle

Contact NorthShore University HealthSystem:

The Art Center Highland Park:


Sunday Salon Artist Talk

Please join us for our first Sunday Salon Artist Talk!

Engaging Diversity in the Arts: Community Discussion

The Art Center Highland Park hosts a panel discussion, Engaging Diversity in the Arts, on Sunday, September 22, 2019, 2:00-4:00pm. 

Panelists include moderator Gabrielle Lyon, PhD, Executive Director of the Illinois Humanities, and featured artists from our exhibition, IMPACT Color IMPACT Black and White, Rhonda K. Brown, Cesar Conde, and Caren Helene Rudman. 

We invite the community to this free event to join the conversation about the need for and acceptance of inclusion and freedom of expression. TACHP hopes to bring people together with Impact Color Impact Black & White, by breaking down barriers of constraints racial and negative preconceptions of those who are seen as “different”.. We hope you all join our conversation bringing communities together to make an impact in a positive way.

7 Life Hacks for Artists

7 Life Hacks for Artists
by Brittney Lueck

Artists may not know it, but they are continually at risk due to the hazardous substances they work with to create their works. Understanding the exposures is critical to create a safe art studio. Here are seven ways they can start now.

The chemicals and processes that artists and craftspeople often use in their home art studios can be the same things that pose significant health risks. For artists involved in painting, sculpting, printmaking, glass blowing, ceramics, photography, and metallurgy, hazardous substances are also the same materials they need to create their work.

So what are the things they can do to make their home art studios safe, mitigate exposure, and reduce risk? Here are a few for starters.

Separate your work area from your living area. Many artists work from home, which creates 24-hour exposure to toxins unless properly mitigated. Make sure that where you do your work is not accessible by other family members and you keep proper boundaries between both spaces.

Substitute safer materials for toxic ones. Instead of oil paint, use acrylics or watercolors. This one choice alone eliminates the need for turpentine and paint thinner. If you are processing photographs, focus on black and whites, not color processing. Overall, water-based materials are far safer than working with materials that are solvent-based, or powders.

Check ventilation. This simple task alone can save lives. Make sure that every area in your work area has adequate ventilation and that you aren’t blocking air vents or windows. Buy a window exhaust fan to help release small amounts of vapors and gases. Get a canopy hood for kilns and a spray booth for spraying.

Wear protective clothing, always. Gloves, goggles, respirators, coveralls — Whatever it takes, make sure your body is covered whenever handling toxic substances. And make sure you wash your work clothes separately from your personal clothes or your family’s clothes.

Check how you’re storing materials. Are your powdered materials stored in airtight jars? Are your liquids stored in tightly capped containers? If not, they should be. Also, make sure that all your large containers are stored on the floor or low shelves to prevent potentially disastrous spills.

Remove carpeting. Your workplace should be a dry floor, period. Carpeting or other fabrics on the floor collect dust and absorb spills, which means you’ll be working in a permanent hazard zone.

Be prepared. A fire extinguisher in your work area is a must. The same is true of a fully stocked first aid kid. You’ll also need emergency phone numbers posted in a well lit place.

Brittney Lueck is a wellness fanatic, young mother nature lover and DaoCloud contributor.

How art can reduce anxiety and depression

How art can reduce anxiety and depression
By: Kaitlyn Proctor

The benefits of both making and viewing art have been known for a long time. Studies have repeatedly shown that art can help support mental health, improve the quality of life for dementia patients and even aid with the social and emotional development of people with developmental disorders such as Autism and ADHD. 

More uses for art therapy are still being found, but as it stands there are already a wide range of applications for it and it is helping improve the quality of life for many people. This article will look at how and why art therapy is considered to be so effective at reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.

Viewing art boosts our mood

Even just looking at art, let alone creating it, does wonders for our mood. In fact, anything that has the potential to elicit a sense of wonder and awe, whether it be a beautiful scene of nature or a great work of art, triggers the release of powerful mood enhancing neurochemicals in our brain. 

And it makes sense, given that both art and the natural world are two of the greatest sources of inspiration and motivation for people, particularly when it comes to creative pursuits. According to psychologists “Awe has many important implications for our well-being… Experiencing awe can give us a sense of hope and provide a feeling of fulfilment.”  

Creating art is a meditative process

When immersed in the creative process the mind is much more clear and calm. Needing to pay close attention to detail, as is the case when creating art, helps someone to learn to be more mindful of the present moment. In this sense, art can be viewed as a form of meditation, and much like regular meditation practice, creating art regularly has the effect of training the mind to be more calm, still and focused, and research chows that it can even help increase attention span and reverse the propensity of the mind to wander.

Creation, not destruction

When someone is anxious or depressed, the mind can enter into destructive cycles of worry, fear and negative emotion, which is often related to events that happened in the past or things that could happen in the future. The process of creation however is the antithesis to these destructive tendencies, giving the mind something positive to focus on, and rooting someone in the present moment as opposed to being carried away with unhelpful thoughts and troubling emotions. 

The healing powers of art

Creating art can also help increase motivation and give someone a sense of purpose, it is a rewarding and enjoyable activity that helps to increase feelings of self-appreciation and feelings of self-worth. Any form of art can have these affects, whether it be painting, drawing, textiles or sculpture. However, research shows that moulding objects out of clay is particularly beneficial for people who have suffered trauma or abuse. The physicality and tactility involved in this art form helps to provide release on a physical as well as emotional level. There is no doubt that both creating and viewing art holds great potential for helping people to heal.

TACHP Gallery News

As Streaming Reflections and enLIGHTen come to a close, I am reflecting on the impact it has made. There is a ‘wow’ factor, a true enlightening experience.  The range of wonderment has been wide, from finding adults sitting deep in meditation engulfed in the changing colors of Bert Leveille’s installations, to filling the galleries with inquisitive elementary school students. Usually our gallery is lit with spot lights directed solely on the art, but here you enter a dark ethereal world with spiraling lights. If you haven’t seen it, try to come before June 8th!

Caren Helene Rudman, Curator

And I was lucky enough to host an event at TACHP during this incredible exhibit! BONUS