‘Provocations’ Examines the Power of Art When Talking About Addiction
The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) 2019 Faculty Excellence Lecture Series, “Provocations,” will examine the power that visual arts has to generate meaningful conversation about the ravages, and understanding, of addiction.
The April 18 “Provocations” event features CSM Adjunct Art Professor Margaret Dowell, Ph.D., who will guide a discussion on how art presents a unique and universal language of expression that helps to put a human face on addiction through the creative work of individuals who have been touched by it.
“Substance abuse and addiction to alcohol, tobacco and illegal and/or prescription drugs are leading health problems that are prevalent, deadly and costly,” shares Dowell, who helped to organize the first community-based Addiction and Art Exhibition at Carroll Community College in 2008. “Today, substance abuse and addiction account for one in five deaths annually as major contributors to heart disease, cancer, strokes as well as accidents, acts of violence and murders. Locally, Southern Maryland has seen an unprecedented spike in heroin/fentanyl overdoses and deaths.”
“Why art?” Dowell asks. Science has proven addiction to be a disease of the brain, affecting both brain and behavior, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Addiction-related art has the potential to take this message to the masses, many of whom still consider addiction to be a “weakness” or “moral failing” worthy of punishment, Dowell contends.
“Art can convey the human experience of addiction in a way that can help the general public understand addiction as a preventable and treatable chronic disease,” Dowell continues. “Artworks about addiction and recovery can stimulate dialogue, can teach and at this crucial point in history, can support contemporary scientific research for our world’s well-being.”
According to the Foundations Recovery Network, many addiction treatment centers are also now starting to offer their patients different kinds of art therapy. This form of therapy is often used to provide multiple venues of expression and healing.
In 2010, Dowell co-edited the book, Addiction and Art (Johns Hopkins University Press) which received much attention including a Highly Commended Award (Psychiatry Category) from the British Medical Association. The 61 pieces included in the book from more than 1,000 submissions present unique stories about addiction. Many pieces are stark representations of life on the edge. Others are disturbing contemplations of life, meaning and death. Some even reflect the allure of addiction and a fondness for substance abuse. Accompanied by a written statement from each artist, each creation is emblematic of the destructive power of addiction and the regenerative power of recovery.
The same year the book was published, Dowell founded a related website www.addictionandart.org/. The website, like the book, is devoted to the utilization of the visual arts to promote needed dialogue about substance abuse. It includes an addiction and recovery download art gallery, a related K-12 curriculum guide, and an addiction and recovery art exhibition model. Her painting, “Letting Go,” was featured on a cover of the Public Health Reports, an Official Journal of the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Surgeon General.
The public is encouraged to attend the free CSM Faculty Excellence Lecture Series April 18 at the CSM Prince Frederick Campus, 115 J.W. Williams Road, Building B, Room 102-105 at 7 p.m.
“Provocations” was established to highlight and share the scholarly work and interests of CSM’s faculty with their colleagues, students, and community members. All lectures are free. For more on the series, call 301-934-7578 or e-mail Stephen Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.