For photographer Amy McIntyre, her “Pandemic Sundays: Any Port in a Storm” project was both self-care and self-expression. She took this image May 24 during the weekend of the canceled Juan de Fuca Festival in Port Angeles. (Amy McIntyre)

For photographer Amy McIntyre, her “Pandemic Sundays: Any Port in a Storm” project was both self-care and self-expression. She took this image May 24 during the weekend of the canceled Juan de Fuca Festival in Port Angeles. (Amy McIntyre)

Therapy can come in many forms of art

Architect suggests setting aside a few minutes a day

To become your own art therapist — and to turn music, dance or painting into self-care — it’s a good idea to get over three letters.

“ ‘Art’ is such a loaded word. It has a lot of baggage,” said Glo Lamson, a Port Townsend artist who took part in an online discussion Friday night.

The Port Angeles Fine Arts Center hosted the talk, titled “ArtBites,” alongside its “Well+Being” exhibition, which is open through Sunday at 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

At the start of the “ArtBites” Zoom presentation, participants listed popular artworks that give them relief: “Inspector Gadget” cartoons, Alanis Morrisette songs and even the Beatles’ classic “Help!”

Then there are the visual arts, such as watercolor.

Tiffani Erdmanczyk, an architect, uses that medium to step into the present moment, away from her workaday stresses.

Thinking we “should” make art and music is one thing; adding it to busy days is another. Erdmanczyk suggested setting aside 10 or 15 minutes to make it part of a routine.

“A lot of it is practice,” she said, adding that quiet reflection is key, too.

If the pandemic has made it difficult to find motivation to make something, you’re not alone, she believes.

“Give yourself some grace,” Erdmanczyk said.

Amy McIntyre, whose photographs appear in the Well+Being show, joined the “ArtBites” discussion. She appreciated Erdmanczyk’s remark that anxiety stems from worrying about the future, while depression can come from mulling the past.

Making photos “centers me in the present,” McIntyre said.

As an artistic practice, she said it “brings my mind into focus” and gives meaning to her days.

McIntyre last month completed “Pandemic Sundays: Any Port in a Storm,” her March 16-June 28 series of black-and-white images shot in Port Angeles. This month, she’s again roaming her city, recording scenes in color for her annual “August Nights” project.

With her photography, she seeks to meld art and history; to create “something lasting and telling,” she said.

Also during “ArtBites,” Monica Vanderheiden of Peninsula Behavioral Health, a cosponsor of the “Well+Being” show, recommended Leah Guzman’s book, “Essential Art Therapy Exercises.”

In her experience, simple creative exercises can do much to relieve the awkwardness between therapist and client. Drawing or painting an “emotional landscape” can be helpful, Vanderheiden noted, as can making a “safe place” collage of magazine clippings and found objects illustrating what one’s personal haven feels like.

Journaling can also blend art and self-care, Vanderheiden said, suggesting writers jot down their negative self-talk, then write in a list of positive thoughts to replace that stuff.

Lamson, a longtime creator of site-specific art installations all over the region, admitted there are times when she feels intimidated. She recently visited the coast and thought: I’ll build a sandcastle.

Immediately, her inner judge started niggling. She had to rid herself of it in order to dive in and create.

The “ArtBites” participants agreed: Be it a melody, a sketch or a photograph, art doesn’t thrive with that interior critic around.

Lauren Bailey, the PAFAC’s community outreach coordinator, summed up its source: “Art is an expression of the heart,” she said, adding she learned that from the Well+Being exhibit.

To visit the show online, see PAFAC.org. To view it in person, visit the center’s gallery between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Masks and social distancing are required; up to 10 people are allowed inside at one time.

For more information about current and future exhibitions or volunteering at the center, email [email protected] or call 360-457-3532.

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Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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