Encouraging artistic expression

I had an opportunity to attend the opening of a unique art exhibit in Berlin. I was invited by the director of Gallery Art Cru, the only outsider art gallery in Berlin. Germany has an interesting philosophy when it comes to nurturing art and everyone is included. People with mental disabilities are invited to attend special studios to experiment with art supplies. An artist is present, but he or she does not teach art nor give direction to the attendees. The artist’s role is to explain how materials are used and to answer questions that arise. It is not art therapy, as there is no discussion about the meaning of the works created; nor is the studio’s purpose to “heal” individuals. It is just a studio space, but remarkable things happen there.

A private law firm in Berlin hosted the opening of Marco Born’s first exhibit. Marco, a young man in his 30s, had been experimenting in the studio for a few years. When he discovered painting, he focused solely on painting. When he explored clay sculpture, he did nothing but sculpture. And when he worked on metal sculptures, that became his passion until he felt he understood the medium.

Although Marco didn’t speak English, we talked about this work through a friend who translated for us. Marco doesn’t prefer one media to another – he has thoroughly enjoyed every day in the studio. I really loved his clay scultpures, which were hand-molded and rough-textured. Beautiful to look at and touch. If I lived in Berlin, I would have lugged one home with me.

Marco also learned to create sculptures with metal. These are welded metal strips around a rock. I would have lugged one of these home with me, too.

What I found so different in Berlin is the prevailing belief that art heals, even when it is done for no specific purpose and without instruction. This concept is fascinating and intriguing to me. Is it true? If one of my artist-readers has any thoughts on this topic, please drop me a note. I suspect you have a lot to teach me.