The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, founded in 2008, is a nonprofit certified art space at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington D.C.. Joan Hisoaka, a brilliant and caring spirit, lost her battle with cancer in 2008; the art gallery is dedicated to honouring her devotion to community and helping others. The gallery upholds Hisaoka’s understanding that art can heal mental and emotional ills “...by building community, inspiring change, and celebrating life”. At the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, cancer patients are supplied with creative resources for healing. The center believes that doctors cure and creativity heals. The artist heals while producing the artwork and the viewer heals while observing the artist’s piece. Healing through art is a process where many individual strands are crossed to create one brilliant piece: community.
Due to COVID-19, art galleries have turned to online exhibitions. Currently, the Joan Hisaoka Arts Gallery is hosting an exhibition called “Black Art Matters” which features artwork from Black artists located in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The gallery plans to donate all proceeds from the artwork to the artists. In addition, they provide a link to anti-racism resources before a viewer experiences the online exhibition to promote further action. The gallery updates the exhibition weekly, and are accepting rolling submissions from artists.
Collages, oil paintings, multimedia work and more populate the exhibit. Bright colours flash by and the passion of the artists bounce off the screen when slowly scrolling through. Black Lives Matter (BLM) in part centers around communities. It was created by communities and is working to change communities. In 2020, an era of great social change comes recognition, remembrance, and acknowledgement. Black artists and artistic viewers should have spaces to heal, and organizations like the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery provide support..
In the “Black Art Matters” online exhibition, the gallery provides statements about the pieces from the artists and links to the artist’s personal websites so viewers can get to know the creators. Boldness and power exemplify “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday” by Sasa Aakil. The artist used black, white, and hot pink to create a loud statement. In the statement by Aakil about the piece they write,
“When these things happen it's hard to know what to do with yourself. We're so used to the senseless murder of black bodies and still we are powerless. This time the pain my family and I felt was deep. I had to express it in some way so I wrote something that was true, a man was lynched yesterday”
Sasa Aakil is making a statement that the creation of “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday” is an act of healing. When viewing the piece, the shocking yet truthful nature stands out, as well as the brush strokes and colours that exude pain and power. T The most beautiful artwork is created when the viewer can see a part of their journey. Art and healing have many layers and the impacts it leaves are like the ocean, coming in waves, affecting each viewer and artist in a different manner.
On the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts website, they write about the difference between “curing” and “healing” during an illness. “Curing affects the illness, while healing affects the experience of the illness. A person engaged in healing-work can make a significant transformation in their quality of life”. The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery supports this idea because the artwork they exhibit is not about finding solutions, but rather healing the artists and viewers through emotional vulnerability. Healing through art will not immediately cure a person’s pain, rather it is about leading one to peace through self-expression, community, and the beauty of life. A common cliché comes to mind: It is about the journey, not the destination.
To find out more about the gallery, check out this website: https://www.joanhisaokagallery.org/