Communicating Disease and Disability Through Art
This is part of a mini-series highlighting student research that was presented in the University of Findlay’s 2021 Symposium for Scholarship and Creativity (SSC).
For centuries, people have communicated their innermost thoughts and feelings through artistic expression in various forms. University of Findlay student Maggie Morehart BA ‘12 MA ‘21, researched how those battling chronic disease and disability use art, not only to express themselves, but as a form of therapy.
Morehart’s research for the annual Symposium examined “the role of art in communicating personal disease narratives in the digital age and the impact of these works on our collective understanding of chronic illness and disability.”
After auditing the class “The Interface of Art and Disease” this spring, Morehart’s interest in health and literacy was peaked. “I wanted to find a way to tie these topics together and learn more about the creative ways people with disabilities or chronic illnesses are sharing their experiences in the age of COVID,” she said. “I was already familiar with a few artists that are doing this, but this project opened my eyes to a much bigger, more diverse community of artists working in various media.”
In her poster presentation, “Visual Virtual Viral,” Morehart stated, “More and more people living with chronic illness and/or disability are turning to art as a form of therapy and creative expression. As a result, the digital landscape is changing, and the way we communicate our personal experiences is changing along with it.” She explained that “artists are using their art not just to communicate, but to advocate for themselves and for others and to change the conversation around disability.”
Through her research for this project, Morehart learned that when it comes to art and advocacy, the possibilities are endless. “These artists are taking a step toward awareness and inclusion, and they’re letting other people who may be struggling know that they’re not alone,” she said.
Morehart was awarded the 2021 Academic Excellence Poster Prize for the project. She is currently working on her master’s thesis on health and literacy and hopes to present her research at the Midwest Popular Culture Association Conference this October.
For more information on the SSC, or to view other projects and presentations from this year, visit the Virtual Symposium for Scholarship and Creativity 2021 webpage.