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Tonya Pinkins & Lindsay Lederman on Neuroscience & Healing Through the Arts

In a live taping for the #HealMeToo Festival Podcast, Festival Founder and Artistic Director Hope Singsen explored the neuroscience of trauma and healing through the arts with two dynamic guests:

  • Tony Award-winner, performer, playwright, director, producer, activist, and #HealMeToo presenting artist, Tonya Pinkins

  • Lindsay Lederman, the Clinical Director of The Art Therapy Project.

Artists and audiences alike describe feeling changed by visual, narrative, musical, and performance works of art. The shift can be slight, but it can be profound, too. What's happening in our minds and bodies when we engage with the arts, to allow that transformation to occur? Are there special ways art-making can help address the neurobiological effects of trauma, in particular? And might engaging with art, individually and as a culture, help inspire the changes we wish to bring about?

A few of the topics Tonya Pinkins and Lindsay Lederman discuss:

  • The neuroscience of trauma and of healing

  • Why Tonya asserts we have the ability to “change the past”

  • What art therapy is, how it works, and why it lets you work through past trauma at “a step away” so it may be less overwhelming--and sometimes more effective than addressing things “head on”

  • How imagination and being creative in many aspects of life can open the locked parts of the brain

  • How our neurons start to fire in new ways while we experience art, like putting footsteps down in a new path

  • How art can help us recover our sense of joy after trauma

  • Why artistic activities access feelings and memories through the body, to help us address experiences that were not captured in language at the time

  • Why trauma of many kinds leaves survivors with a sense of shame, and how witnessing art and performance can help address that shame

  • How and why creating or viewing art that presents new and different ways of imagining the future may help change the way we respond to things that trigger or frighten us, even when we disagree with the artwork we’re responding to

The #HealMeToo Podcast is hosted by Hope Singsen--the artist, creativity researcher and survivor-activist who founded the #HealMeToo Festival in NYC this Spring. 

Your Turn: Ideas & Links

Interested in trying Art Therapy for yourself? Survivors and others in the NYC area can access free group art therapy sessions at The Art Therapy Project, or seek individual art therapy through The Art Therapy Project’s new individual practice. Visit their Projects page to the various types of groups available, and complete a brief questionnaire to request a spot in one of their groups.

Episode Guest Bios

Tonya Pinkins is a Chicago-born, New York-based Artivist.  For her half-century career in  theater, she has won or been nominated for awards including the Tony, OBIE, Olivier, Lortel, NY Drama Critics, Drama Desk, Dramaleague, Los Angeles Drama Critics, Outer Critics Circle, Clarence Derwent, Audelco, NAACP Theater, Joseph Jefferson, Helen Hayes, Noel, SAW, and Ovation awards. She is outspoken on the rights and perspectives of “othered” people in the American theater. She is proud of Truth and Reconciliation of Womyn as inclusive restorative narratives contributing to social justice for all. This work is a continuation of her lifelong work which includes work with Kimberle Crenshaw’s African American Policy Forum at Vassar College, forty-six interviews for TheShiftNetwork called TheMeTooDialogues and Truth and Reconciliation upcoming readings at #HealMeToo Festival. Tonya is a 2019-2021 Fulbright Scholar and a recipient of the LMCC Creative Engagement Award for this project.

Lindsay Lederman, MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT is is Clinical Director of The Art Therapy Project and has dedicated her career to bringing art therapy to children, adolescents and adults who are most in need. Her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and her Masters from the School of Visual Arts Art Therapy Program, have provided her with a strong foundation, both in and out of the classroom. Lindsay began her career at St. Luke's - Roosevelt as the first art therapist in their child and family outpatient clinic. She went on to join CARES, their adolescent day program, and most recently started the first art therapy program for Nemours Hospital for Children. Lindsay is a dedicated supervisor, therapist, presenter and leader. She has a passion for sharing her belief in the power of art therapy to help those who have endured trauma.