Combining consciousness with art is an art form without limitation. We therefore asked the founder of The Academy of Art, Creativity & Consciousness - Dana Lynne Andersen, what her reason was for starting the Academy and to describe the thoughts, aspiration, and background behind starting it.
What is your background and story?
A child of the 60’s, I grew up with a ‘save the world complex’. From as early as I can remember, I have felt the urgency to work on behalf of a world in peril. I remember going off to summer camp as a 12-year-old and worrying that Denver wouldn’t be there when I came back. The idea of nuclear annihilation was very real to my generation. For this reason, I could not at first allow myself to be an artist. I loved art, I spent my childhood creating things. Art was something luscious and joyful, so I felt it was self-indulgent. How could I be an artist when the world needed saving? So instead I took an undergraduate in philosophy and a Masters Degree in Consciousness studies in my quest to understand the root of the worlds problems. Only later did I come to realize that the best way to ‘save the world’ was to open the aperture of each person. When a person is open to the source within themselves, then they will unfold the gifts that will uplift the world.
I opened Transformative Art Studios, originally HeartCore Studio, in Berkeley, California, in the 1980s, then Tree of Life Studio in Denver, Colorado, then the Ananda Studio in Nevada City, California. These were multi-modality spaces where we could do movement and dance and also work with paint, pastel, clay, collage, and mask-making. These spaces became a vibrant nexus for community, with classes, healing sessions, gatherings, drumming circles, concerts, kirtans, etc.
From these early expressions evolved Awakening Arts; the Academy of Art, Creativity & Consciousness. We have centers now in both Portland, Oregon, and Assisi, Italy. Each center has a space for movement and a hands-on art studio. In the Assisi Center, we also have a beautiful art gallery, while at the Portland center, we have an adjacent concert auditorium. Both are in the midst of beautiful surrounding nature.
At Awakening Arts, we use the modalities of the arts to open hearts and minds, to catalyze transformation, and to uplift consciousness. We are open to all spiritual traditions. At the same time, both centers are also synergistically connected to a vibrant spiritual community called ‘Ananda’, based on the universal yoga principles taught by Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi).
What was your conscious aspiration to work with your creativity?
Creativity is essential for our survival in the midst of a rapidly changing climate that threatens human survival. The magnitude of change is unprecedented. Life emerged on this earth 4 billion years ago, Homosapiens some 200,000 years ago. Yet in the past 50 years, in one generation - a single lifetime, the earth has been more radically changed than by all previous generations of humanity. We are not facing merely a change of social, political, or economic systems, but a profound transformation of civilization itself.
These are watershed times and we are called to bring all of our human and spiritual resources to bear. And yet, so many people are cut off from the inner resources that would provide the strength, resilience, imagination, and creativity we need. This is in part because our current education system prepares students to succeed in the Industrial era, when they are already living in a world that has evolved far past that era. As Jean Houston says “We’re being educated for about the year 1915, not the immense complexity of the multicultural world, which is what we’re emerging into.”
What makes you keep going with your work?
Shining faces! When people come in to a class they often doubt whether or not they are creative. They deeply long to feel the pulse of creativity in their veins and are often afraid that they won’t be able to. Many had experiences in childhood that shut down their creative expression.
Within a few short hours, everyone (yes EVERYONE!) is in a creative flow and there is a palpable sense of joy in the room. When we begin to feel the vibrant flow of spontaneous, authentic self-expression, we come alive again! Our senses become alert, our hearts open. And yet, at the same time, our minds become quieter. When we are immersed in creative process it is a kind of meditation.
Creative expression is intrinsic to being human. It is native to being alive, instinctive in us. If you give a box of crayons and a piece of paper to a four-year-old, they know exactly what to do. They do not need explanations or instructions. They immediately begin to scribble and draw with delight. Not knowing how to draw has to be learned! Turn on the music and you’ll see that every toddler knows how to dance. You have to go to dance class to learn that only certain kinds of movements qualify as dance. Every child is an artist, an inventor, an imagineer. You actually have to go to school to learn that you are not. It is not intentional, but it is systematic. Deeply rooted in our educational system is an approach that stifles creativity as it cultivates conformity.
As we look at how and why our creative and intuitive intelligence was squelched – we see it is part of a much larger picture. It is the story of an age of form and conformity - the fallout of an era in which we made the world in the image and likeness of industry and finance - machines, assembly lines, time clocks, and ledgers. Likewise, our reclaiming of our own authentic Being and the vitality of our own Soul is also part of a larger picture. The world is poised at crisis and crossroads - and what it most desperately needs are human beings who have opened the channel to a larger reality.
We are in between worlds. The old world is dying and a new world is still emerging. Creativity and intuition are the core survival skills of the world unfurling around us. Those who feel the pulse of the emerging world will move forward as pioneers in a new civilization. They will begin to live in a new terrain, shining with hope, even as the old world crumbles around them.
In this brave new world, creativity is no longer a flounce on the edge of what is real. We need to draw our solutions, ideas, and inspirations not from the past, but from the future. How else do you succeed in a world where knowledge is expanding at an exponential rate, where what you learn will be outdated in a few short years? A child entering kindergarten today is likely to have a career in a field that does not yet exist!
We need what creativity and intuition have to give; passports to the future - ways of thinking and being that do not derive their strategies from habit or tradition. In the topography of the new civilization, expanded human capacities will be required and valued. Agility of thought, suppleness of body and being, fluidity of perspective, sense of play and exploration, these are among the modalities of the emerging intelligence. A new way of being in the world calls for continual expansion, for wearing roles loosely, holding opinions lightly; becoming not so much a fixed end-product- a melded bundle of self definitions, as a vessel through which life flows freely. As outer forms change with increasing frequency, the art of our times is the movement across and beyond forms – the art of trans(across)-formation. Pioneers of the new world are engaged in perennial transformation. Imagination, creativity, and intuition are its lifeblood and pulse.
How has your creativity developed over time?
I trust it more. In my own creative work, I know that the moments of despair are part of the process. Work that has any greatness in it engages the deeper dimensions of human experience. I know from experience that the artist is often the the alchemist, transmuting both personal and collective energies through the kinesthetics of creative process. The artist is also sometimes the seer. More than once I have dreamed of collective events before they happened - Chernobyl, the Tsunami in Haiti, events which reverberate through the collective psyche. Things emerge in paintings and colleges that have yet to be brought forth in the outer world. The ‘priestess of beauty’ waits upon an inner wellspring.
I have learned to trust the creative process. I let things be created through me that I don’t understand. I know that when the waters are not visible, there are rivulets pulsing between the sand. Also, as one matures, there are longer rhythm themes that arc across chasms of time, revelations that emerge through the decades.
“Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
If you could give advice to a young artist, what would it be?
Well honestly I would love to write an entire article on this question- and probably will! But for now….
To all young people… we are all artists…
As human beings, we are ALL meant to be creative and to enjoy ALL of the arts as vehicles for discovering ourselves and expressing the delights of the soul. All of us have the capacity for full on creativity in any of its myriad forms; painting, dancing, singing, writing, poetry, theater. We are meant to sing with our hearts on full volume with all of our soul’s passion streaming through. We’re meant to dance and let the energy of joy move through us. We’re meant to paint and play and create with childlike delight. Don’t let this joy be ignored or forgotten. And when your heart breaks, and when you lose hope - let the cleansing waters of life flow through you. Don’t close down. Keep the aperture open.
Keeping your channel open is essential for our own health and well being, but it is also what will enable you to be of service to the world. When your own inner channel is open then what you have to give doesn’t come just from the personality, it comes from the deepest source of life and consciousness. In these times, all of the problems of the world are escalating amidst a rapidly changing (and deteriorating) climate. We are already in an era of diaspora with millions of people being displaced from their homes. Some psychologists suggest that our global crisis exceeds our human cognitive capacities. We are overwhelmed by the data and it is the human tendency to shut down.
How do we work with a deluge of information that is also frightening? Research also shows in order to affect change in behavior, communication needs to engage the ‘deep frames’ of mostly subconscious belief patterns. How can we do this? We must turn to the artists who are fluent in the language beyond words. The world needs precisely what the arts have to give; the ability to touch the heart and soul directly. Art has the power to penetrate to the core levels of our Being, reaching below the surface of the conscious mind to the primeval substrates of the subconscious and stretching past ordinary awareness to access the highest levels of super-consciousness. Versed in seeing what is yet to be, the arts penetrate the future and tap the wellsprings of hope and vision that nourish humanity.
The role of the artist living in watershed times must be to awaken. The artists of the future are called to be our prophets and seers, our visionaries, and troubadours of transformation. Right now, I am working to gather ‘awakening artists’ to be a part of ‘Climate Change and Consciousness’ https://ccc19.org/ - an international gathering to be held at Findhorn in 2019. We need the arts to help us process what is happening - the grief of loss and the frightening enormity of the challenge. We need the arts to feel into the solutions, to work as the arts always do, in the territory beyond what is already known.
I invite the young artists of the world to be a part of this global climate change art festival. Dear Artist of the Future, we need your intuitive revelations and inspired visions, we need your capacity to perceive beyond the paradigm of our predicaments. We need you to open the channel.
CONTACT: Dana Lynne Andersen MA
Awakening Arts Academy: