A New Form of Wellness: Art Bathing

For me, summer in Muskoka isn’t complete without a visit to the Muskoka Arts & Crafts (MAC) Summer Show—on July 15-17, 2022 at Bracebrdige’s Annie Williams Park. I’ve missed the opportunity over the last two years as the show was cancelled due to… well, I’d rather not talk about the pandemic. But I know what will happen when I pass through the Show’s entry gate this week: a form of wellness will wash over me, as it does during a swim, in a yoga class, at a spa visit, or while participating in a wilderness retreat. I call it the art of bathing. Or, Art Bathing.

Art Bathing?

Yes. It’s the act of immersing yourself in art. With more than 140 practicing artists participating from across Canada, the MAC show offers an abundant supply of places to surround yourself with beautiful hand-crafted work. I’ve adopted the term from better-known “forest bathing”. Like lapping up the sights and sounds of the forest, spending an extended period surrounded by art can relieve stress and stimulate healing in the body.

At the MAC summer show, it starts with sound and feel. I’ll hear and feel a buzz in the air; an expectant energy generated by the artists, but also by the visitors who return year after year, even planning vacation time around the show dates. I’ll walk through the exhibit area, scanning the crowd for friends who consider the MAC Summer Show a mecca for art shopping. Like me they’ll be searching for new items to fill a place in their home, office, or cottage. There is something there for everyone – paintings, glasswork, pottery, wood craft, stone craft, metal work, clothing, toys, jewelry, furniture, rustic wall art, photography, and more!

Human imagination has no bounds, which is so evident at the summer show. At times, I’m blown away by something so totally new and inventive, I can’t fathom how the artisan came up with the idea. At other times, I wonder why I didn’t think of that.

I also love watching people at the show, engaging with the artists, learning about their inspirations and process. I especially enjoy seeing children entranced by a piece of art. Their tiny faces rosy with excitement when they come upon a colourful glass treasure, a hand-made toy or they’re mesmerized by an artist taking time to explain their work.

Outdoor art shows appeal to all kinds of people. If you’re not comfortable visiting a formal gallery, you’ll find an outdoor show relaxed and laid back. You can get to know the artists and hear their stories and see a wide selection of art in one place.

When attending any art show, I make sure I follow a set path, so I get to see everything. I recommend you do the same. A circle works best if the booths are laid out in a grid that offers that opportunity. I end where I started and can easily backtrack to a vendor I want to revisit. At the finish you’ll have experienced Art Bathing. As you would with a visit to the spa, you’ll emerge inspired. Refreshed. Recharged.

About the Author: Muskoka writer and visual artist Wendie Donabie paints pictures with words and flavours her creations  with alliteration, similes and metaphors. When words won’t do the job, she turns to her easel and paints what stirs her heart and soul – most often her love of the natural world. Wendie has published work in magazines and in poetry and literary collections. At this time, she is working on a murder mystery set in a forested resort area somewhere in North America. Wendie is co-founder of Muskoka Authors Association, operates Heron’s Nest Studio Gallery and is one of the organizers of  ARTrail Muskoka. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and www.WendieDonabie.com.

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