Introducing the Art Alliance SIG: Promoting Art Creation as Self-Care

Image of an individual painting in a scribble drawing

Image credit to Charles Saadiq

"I completely understand, we're all so busy!" seems to be my go-to sentence at the beginning of every single semester. And also mid-semester. And definitely at the end of a semester. It's no secret that many of us are overwhelmed and also, that we find it difficult to say no to new tasks. I found work-life balance to be near impossible in my first few months at U-M because there were so many great opportunities to learn new things and I just didn't want to lose out on any of them! About a year later however, in a conversation with Naomi Binnie, Digital Education Librarian, and Breanna Hamm, Instructional Technologist, I realized that as an individual that considered herself an artist, I had not created anything new since I began my residency. So many of my creative energies were being poured into my work, that by the time the work day ended, I had no energy to work on that novel and/or draw that portrait that had been sitting in my home office for the past 365 days. This talk is what inspired the vision and eventual creation of the Art Alliance SIG. 

What is the Art Alliance you ask? Well, our mission statement sums it up pretty well: 

The Art Alliance aims to provide an inclusive and safe space for all employees of the University of Michigan Library to consume and create art as a self-care practice. Through open workshops, group art therapy sessions with certified therapists, and regular group outings, the group will promote and contribute to the overall wellness of all library employees.

Simply stated, we are a group that sets up regular open workshops with supplies provided for you to take a break from work. Our open workshops are an hour long and they occur biweekly. You are free to stop by for the whole hour, and if you'd like, take part in the activity we present. Or, you can stop by for 10 minutes, pop in your earphones, and furiously write out that scene for your novel that's been lingering since you wrapped up your instruction session. Our main aim is to create a space where you can feel free to disengage from work and focus your creative energies on creating something for yourself

We officially launched as a SIG in February of 2019. For out first year, we applied for and received funding from the Research and Creative Projects Committee.  This money allowed us to buy art supplies to ensure our workshops are invlusive for beginners and advanced creators, and have also funded group art therapy sessions with local certified therapist, Elizabeth Gonzalez from Amplify Colectivo. We have also collaborated with other groups within the library, including a collaboration with Connected Scholarship for their Douglass Day Celebration and with the Amity Committee for their annual Ice Cream Social. 

There is much that has been written about self-care in regards to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.  However, self-care as a term has been commercialized and led to a general misunderstanding of the roots of self-care and what it stands for. While self-care can involve taking a break from your work for your individual well-being, it's rooted in building a sustainable work environment for yourself. Self-care advises you to say "no" to that additional opportunity that may require you to work weekends when you don't have to and it ultimately is you looking out for yourself. That being said however, as a group, Breanna, Naomi, and I really wanted to create something tailored to the library community, supported by the institution and provided during the work day - an institutionalized form of self-care. 

As our SIG has been around less than a year, we realize we have much room for growth and have taken any and all feedback we receive to heart to improve our approach and the accessibility of our workshops. If you're interested in getting workshop invitations, please join our MCommunity group.  Below I have also listed our Fall slate of events and invite you to come out and spend a few minutes to the full session time engaging your creative energies with colleagues from across the library!

Art Alliance Fall 2019 Events: 
September 26th - Group Art Therapy Workshop with Liz Gonzalez, Scholarspace 12-2pm 
(Registration is required) 
October 9th - Open Workshop: Cross Stitching led by Caitlin Pollock, Gallery Lab, 2-3pm
October 24th - Open Workshop: TBD led by Breanna Hamm, Buhr PubHub, 1-2pm 
November 5th - Field Trip to North Campus Letterpress, 2-4pm 
(Registration is required)
November 21st - Open Workshop: TBD led by Naomi Binnie, Gallery Lab, 2-3pm
Wednesday December 11th - Zine Making Workshop, Scholarspace, 1-3pm