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Wolfsonian workshop teaches family how art can fight stress

As Melikah Jazz drew on a circular piece of cardboard with bright oil pastels, she had no idea that she was using art therapy to relax.

Jazz, 47, lost her mother to pancreatic cancer and became her father’s caretaker in 2011.

This new responsibility stopped her from maintaining a 9-to-5 job and brought on heightened stress.

The Wolfsonian-FIU and the Florida Art Therapy Association worked together to offer the Moments of Joy Workshop this past Friday.

The workshop was held to show family caregivers like Jazz stress-releasing techniques through art therapy.

“Art therapy is a program that evokes many emotions,” said Ava Rado-Harte, a Miami Beach resident and art-therapy enthusiast. “It offers people the chance to relax without going too far out of their way to do it.”

More than 30 people came to the workshop to learn different therapeutic methods.

The first activity for workshop-goers was to create their own mandala — a colorful, ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism that represents the universe — while listening to calm music. People followed the rhythm of the music at their own pace to set down an abstract drawing of the circular form.

“We’re trying to introduce self-care for caregivers,” said Annie Hoffman, president-elect of the Florida Art Therapy Association. “Our activities don’t require a lot of materials and are quick, since most caregivers don’t have much free time.”

The second activity involved an open dialogue over a painting in the museum.

“We just want caregivers and elders to get involved in the community,” said Amanda Alders Pike, current president of the association. “By simply engaging in a dialogue, one can express emotions that they didn’t even know they had inside of them.”

At the end of the workshop, the caregivers were encouraged to take home the techniques to their families.

“Leisure activities are proven to promote prolonged living,” Pike said. “So if we spent just spent a little more time appreciating art, we could use it as an opportunity to stay healthy.

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