Art, Science and Everything in Between

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By Anna Cocks

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 10 of VARSITY News.


I recently attended a seminar talk titled Creativity, Imagination and Science as part of an ‘Art and Science in Health’ seminar series at UCT’s medical campus. The talk was aimed at bridging the gap between the humanities and science world. In an institution that is divided into different faculties, there is often a misconstrued notion that some are greater than others. However, the arts, creativity and the humanities is actually more fundamental to life than we think.



I am sure we are aware of those adult colouring books that rest on the bookshelves of most bookstores. They are not some craze. They are meant to encourage us to delve into our creative functioning. And we all have a creative side. We are all creative – we just express it in different ways.


Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” As children, we primarily spent our time with creative artworks at pre-primary school, and that was to help us develop problem solving skills, invent new ways of doing things and try out new ideas.


Science even proves we should be creative:

  1. It improves your mental health
    Crafting helps focus the mind, like a form of meditation. Writing helps manage negative emotions. Painting/drawing helps manage trauma.
  2. Boosts your immune system
    Studies have shown that writing/journaling increases your CD4+ lymphocyte count, the key to your immune system. Listening to music can rejuvenate the functioning of your immune system.
  3. Makes you smarter
    Playing music improves the connectivity between the right and left hemispheres of your brain which in turn improves your cognitive function.

Creativity should never leave our daily work sphere. We should be creative as accountants, businessmen/women, lawyers and even doctors. It is possible.


Leonard Shapiro, who has two degrees from UCT – a Bachelor of Social Science and a Bachelor in Fine Art (Hons) – is an artist who is now using his creative skills to teach medical practitioners an enhanced observation method for anatomy study (called Haptico-Visual Observation & Drawing [HVO&D]), through active touch and drawing. He believes, “When we use our hands to observe with, we gather a huge amount of sensory data about the 3D form and structure of any object (including anatomical parts).”


Dr Dawn Garisch is a medical doctor and author. She runs writing workshops to help people put their life events on a page which assists them with dealing with trauma. Her course has been included in the UCT Art in Medicine course and the UCT Entrepreneur course. Dr Garisch who spoke in the seminar revealed that growing up she had a chronic illness but looked to creative practises to heal her. “I began to be fascinated with the ‘poetry of the body’ to heal me” – a concept implying that by focusing one’s attention on another creative action one can lessen the pain in one’s self. She encourages people to turn to creative practises to reduce anxiety. She calls it, “Turning mucus to gold.”


And thus, we should all be turning the mucus in our lives to gold. Let us not disregard the creative arts for the important role they play in society, but instead foster new creative thinking patterns that filter into all spheres of our lives – especially our work sphere.


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