Artist Wendy Satsky sees art as therapy
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Art is more than a pretty picture to Wendy Satsky ” it’s a way to tap into your spirit; it’s a vehicle to find peace and it can even heal aspects of your life, Satsky said. Satsky, who has spent 25 years teaching art at Minturn Middle School, began creating a series of mandalas ” an ancient art form shaped like a circle that has order, symmetry, balance and harmony “when her husband Stuart became ill a few years ago. She also helped him to make art while he was sick.
“I saw how he became peaceful just from the simple act of coloring pictures,” Satsky said about Stuart.
Making art didn’t only help Stuart, it proved therapeutic for Satsky during the duration of her husband’s illness and subsequent death ” “Art is so important for me, it gets (the emotion) out of my body and I can start making sense of where I am ” using art where words just aren’t adequate,” she said. “… Art opens you up.”
Satsky’s own experience lent credibility to the idea that art is a powerful force “that anyone may access for creativity, self-expression and healing,” Satsky writes in her biography.
As a result, the Minturn resident has taken her own experience and turned it into a new career path, a venture Satsky calls HeARTworks, which includes teaching group workshops and private sessions, helping people learn to express themselves artisticallly. After teaching middle schoolers for 25 years, Satsky said she feels a strong desire for change and that she’s looking for new ways to use her knowledge and skills.
“I believe that the ‘highest purpose of art is to inspire’ (Bob Dylan) and that I can make a contribution by sharing positive energy through my artistic creations and helping others learn how to express themselves artistically. We’re all natural artists … it’s just a matter of discovering what type of art we’re good at, what’s comfortable for us (and) what we want and need to express.”
As part of HeARTworks, Satsky has worked with young children experiencing loss, illness or divorce. Recently she’s worked with two young children whose parents are in the middle of a divorce. To help them process some of the emotions the children are feeling, Satsky has been reading them stories as well as letting them play with different media, including paints and clay.
“The goal is to help them open up and let down their inhibitions, and to create an environment where they can talk and be themselves in the midst of a difficult situation,” she said. “Using art play, oftentimes they can release stress and express themselves. In this way, art can have a healthy/healing effect.”
The idea of HeARTworks first began brewing in Satsky’s head about 15 years ago when she began teaching workshops to a few of her students’ parents. The parents had told her they wanted to “make art like their children got to make in the classroom.” Those first workshops eventually evolved into classes Satsky called “Connecting with your inner artist,” inspired by Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way.”
“The desire many people seem to be craving for meaningful creative and artistic experiences prompted the beginning of my women’s art circles, which are art-making sessions tied to relevant themes and issues,” Satsky said. There’s a picture in Satsky’s head of women sitting around her kitchen table, making art and contributing to a bigger vision, she said. She’s not sure who the women are or how they’re contributing, but she trusts that she’ll figure it out as time goes on. “So much of it is showing up and doing the work and trusting that the energy will take us somewhere,” she said.
In September Satsky used calligraphy to help participants in a bookclub at the Bookworm in Edwards discuss the themes within the novel, “Peony in Love.” Satsky’s sister-in-law Shelby Kleimer led the discussion, while Satsky led the art-portion of the workshop.
“It was amazing to see women with little to no artistic background learn more about expressing themselves,” she said. Satsky provided materials and techniques that beginners could easily use, including Sumi ink, black and white paper and the Chinese character for love; each woman was asked to use something they had written or a chunk of text from the book to express the theme of love.
“Anyone can benefit from the process of artistic creation because it provides a way to hear one’s own voice. Engaging in the art process can be like a meditation in that it encourages a turning inward, an deeper awareness, and a sense of peace in the moment, as ordinary perceptions of time and space dissolve,” Satsky said.
Local resident Anne Dunlevie took some Colorado Mountain College classes with Satsky about five years ago, which “kept the same group of women returning each semester for more art instruction, but really it went beyond that as Wendy’s style blends self expression with self exploration in a collective sense,” Dunlevie said.
When she learned about the “Peony in Love” Art/Book club, she was intrigued, Dunlevie said, and signed up. ” I think that we all left that evening feeling like we’d connected to something enriching that we’d like to experience again.
“(Wendy) is a real treasure in this valley and I’m so pleased that she is making this career transition in a way that allows her to continue to teach and offer her life affirming talents to others,” Dunlevie said.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or email@example.com.