Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wants to know if limericks count.
"The visual and performing arts—building a creative mind and keeping it sharp."
Every so often, I've reviewed a DVD of a stage play—Stephen Sondheim's Company, for example—or a concert. Even if it's not as slick as an adaptation, there's something to be gained from the energy of a live performance. At the same time, there's something missing, because it just isn't a live performance.
Apparently, there's something that live arts does for your brain, even more so when you actually participate. That's the thesis of Arts & the Mind with Lisa Kudrow, a two-part documentary from PBS now on DVD.
The first part, "Creativity," looks at play in learning, a school poetry program that actor Tim Robbins works with, and 12,000-year-old petroglyphs. It also discusses the "use it or lose it principle," the neuroplasticity of the brain, and the link between learning math and learning music.
The second part, "The Art of Connection," considers the way a song lingers in memory, looks at music therapy (the music cart) at a children's hospital, follows veterans suffering from PTSD as they study art related to past wars (going back to the Crimean War), and watches people of all ages working on a mural. The effects of stress and pleasure on the brain also are discussed.
Naturally, there are lots of 3D-like images of human brains on arts, along with the expected shots of people doing arts. The show—rather than emphasizing performance—focuses on the reactions of onlookers and participants as it discusses the ways arts help the human mind. Picture quality doesn't dazzle, but it does the job nicely.
The show at least considers the question that crossed my mind as I watched: Do arts help the brain because they're arts or because people are involved with other humans as they do arts? Perhaps the answer doesn't matter, but Arts & The Mind successfully establishes its thesis that arts have a positive effect on the mind.
It's mostly aimed at getting viewers to try arts—say a youth poetry program or a senior citizen chorus. I'd guess arts groups who want to screen it for prospective participants would want to snap up copies. It'd be at least worth checking your local library if you're one of those prospective participants.
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