There’s Power in Pictures

Local studios claim exercising near art can improve more than just your view

October 9, 2012

Students take a yoga class in the gallery space of the Smith Center on U Street.

Artist Terry Sitz is set to have her first gallery show this weekend, except it won’t be at a gallery. She’s showing her work — colorful paper collages in the style of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs — at Bikram Yoga Bethesda.

It’s an unusual but fitting choice: The studio isn’t just where she practices yoga. It’s also the source of her inspiration.

“When I started doing Bikram, I felt exhilarated and joyful, and I wanted to express that feeling,” says Sitz, whose bold works feature images of women, typically in yoga poses, alongside excerpts from Rumi poems.

Studio director/owner John Kramer snapped up one of her prints for his “permanent collection.” Students walking into class may see “Spirits Fly” as mere decoration, he says, but after 90 minutes of opening up, their perspective changes.

“Coming out of a practice, that’s when you can appreciate the flow of that piece,” Kramer says. “It takes you in.”

Art can make people feel even better than movement can alone, says Shanti Norris, co-founder of Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. In addition to offering yoga, wellness classes and creativity workshops, the U Street space is home to the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery.

That’s because what you see really matters, Norris says. She cites a 1984 study that found post-surgical patients with a view of trees rather than a brick wall required shorter stays and less medication, and subsequent research that has inspired hospitals to incorporate art into their design to improve outcomes.


Bikram Yoga Bethesda (7832 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-215-7820, Bikramyogabethesda.com) hosts Spirits Fly: A Celebration of Yoga, Art and the Creative at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s free admission for light fare, cocktails, music, yoga demonstrations and — of course — the work of Terry Sitz. The pieces on display will include the one shown above, which is part of the studio’s permanent collection.

“For yoga studios to be incorporating visual arts seems like a natural transition,” says Norris, who sees more than just health benefits from the pairing. “On a super-practical level, studios are often open, light-filled rooms, which are the optimal spaces to show art.” Plus, art makes a space more attractive and appealing.

Smith Center has a dedicated space for yoga that’s separate from the gallery, but all students must walk past the art to get to classes (and yoga classes are occasionally held in the gallery).

“The art sets the stage for yoga,” gallery director Brooke Seidelmann says. “It’s opening them up, making them more meditative.”

In search of that same mind-body connection, Lava Barre in Arlington (3260 Wilson Blvd.; 571-483-0468, Lavabarre.com) has made a commitment to “Art Barre,” an ever-changing display on the studio walls of work by local artists. The first is Amy Flatten, whose modern oil paintings will be on display through Oct. 20.

Her vibrant, graceful images remind co-owners Lauren Price and Vanessa Ligorria of their form of ballet-inspired exercise. And they’re hung at just the right level to not only enliven the mood of the students, but also to improve their posture.

“They lift their chins to see the art,” says Price, who notes that the images also lift the students’ spirits. “The workout is an outlet to sweat the day away. And the art is an outlet as well.”

Maybe one of their next artists will be a student who’s been inspired to create works based on experiences in class. Just the way it happened to Sitz.

Healthy Selections

Doctors know medicine, but they’re not experts when it comes to canvases and sculptures. That’s why Smith Center for Healing and the Arts (1632 U St. NW; 202-483-8600, Smithcenter.org) just launched an art advisory service guiding hospitals and physician’s offices on what to put on their walls. “We’re bringing art bedside,” says Brooke Seidelmann, who represents 20 artists and helps match their works with the needs of clients.

The collection offers a diverse range of materials and styles, intended to get hospitals away from displaying those traditional landscapes. “People want to escape, and that has value, but we want to involve people in creativity and trigger other parts of the brain,” Seidelmann says.

Interested facilities can contact Seidelmann, who will learn about the space and what the selected works should convey. She’ll suggest pieces to purchase, and funds go to the artists as well as to supporting the work of the Smith Center.

 

 

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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