A new book by Professor of Art Education Jane Dalton introduces mindfulness-based expressive arts practices to art teachers. Published this month by Davis Publications, a leading publisher of art education materials and resources, The Mindful Studio: Cultivating Creativity and Well-Being in the Art Classroom advocates for the importance of cultivating one’s inner life as a fundamental part of creative practice – for both teachers and students.
“In 1990, I was formally introduced to meditation and yoga,” Dalton writes in the book’s introduction. “Both became lasting practices that sustained me through many of life’s challenges. Today, expressive arts and meditation are woven into the fabric of my personal life and classroom practice. I have found that engaging in practices that move me toward my own transformation are at the heart of both teaching and living. In my creative practice—whether it is formal, exhibited work or less formal, expressive arts-based experiences— mindfulness is an essential element. Being fully present to materials, process, and intuitive promptings awakens creative expression and enhances well-being.”
The book is organized into four chapters. The first chapter introduces and explains mindfulness as a practice and offers exercises to encourage readers to establish a “culture of mindfulness.” The second chapter integrates mindfulness with the expressive arts, demonstrating ways to expand creativity by incorporating other modalities, such as poetry and movement. In Chapter 3, “The Art of Self Care,” Dalton guides teachers through the process of “visual journaling” as a path for their own mindful practice (see example below), and in Chapter 4 she demonstrates how mindfulness in the art classroom engages the whole student, mind, body, and heart.
“Every day in classrooms, visual art quite naturally bridges students’ inner and outer worlds; materials and processes speak for students in ways words cannot,” she writes. "Images, shapes, and colors reveal students’ inner lives; creative experiences strengthen emotional well-being and promote awareness of self and others."
Dalton holds a Ph.D. in Expressive Arts in Education and an M.F.A in Textile Design and Weaving. Her research investigates the impact of contemplation and artistic inquiry in the disciplines of studio art and teacher education with a focus on transformative learning. She is the co-editor of The Whole Person: Embodying Teaching and Learning through Lectio and Visio Divina (2019, Rowan & Littlefield), and the three-volume book series, Contemplative Practices, Research, and Pedagogy (2018/2019, Rowan & Littlefield). She is also co-author of The Compassionate Classroom: Lessons that Nurture Empathy and Wisdom (2004, Chicago Review Press). See more of her work at her website.
Jane Dalton, "Focus on Your Own Light" journal spread. In The Mindful Studio: Cultivating Creativity and Well-Being in the Art Classroom.