Meaning Making and Creative Expressive Arts

The arts are ubiquitous; they have been part of the history of humanity through-out time, present in various forms. Throughout cultures and civilizations the arts have been containers for giving voice to aspects of the self that rest beyond the reason and logic, Creative expressive arts form the landscapes, the thresholds, and the frontiers alongside which our biological, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions come together.

At times ritualistic and often transformational, creative expressive arts form a cauldron in which humans have created a shared understanding of the world. The process of creativity draws on spontaneity, play and imagination; it affords us to become archaeologists excavating our interiority, our feelings, our understanding of events half remembered, half understood.

In the process of creative expressive arts, spontaneous images emerge; these stream from our imagination and fantasy but are forms to the residues of our disembodied patterns and relationship. The process of self-expression and self-examination through the multi-modalities of creative expressive arts, holds the potential for us to notice, to observe, and to re-imagine our familiar and habitual patterns with which we meet the world and life’s demands.

Engaging with our interiority, through a creative expressive medium, we may come to a space where we can temporarily leave the world’s busyness aside and re-connect to moments of stillness, to the images and voices from within, to the pulse of life beneath the skin and within. In this space, the point is not in the taking of a next step, but in the closing-in on what brings us to feelings and aliveness.  The process affords expression to the entirety of our self –conscious and unconscious. It gives us ways to meet and interact with all the dimensions that makes us human ­–the biological, the emotional, the spiritual and the psychological.

Fox (1983) posited that “whatever I want to express in truest meaning must emerge from within me and pass through an inner form. It cannot come from the outside to the inside but must emerge from within. Only art as meditation reminds people so that they will never forget that the most beautiful thing the potter produces is … the potter” (p. 191). This brings attention to the phenomenological and transcendental processes of meaning making where “not only we must study the person’s experience, but even more we must consider the one experiencing” noted Halpern (2003, p. 46). Stepping out of the realm of simply observing, categorizing, assessing, compartmentalizing and labeling experiences (which essentially distances the individual from his/her experiences), the process of creativity helps accessing and examining the internal landscape comprised of “feeling, imagination, and meaning; [it affords a gateway into the understanding] of how the person actually experiences reality [and what one] thinks, feels, senses, and imagines in the moment” suggested Halprin (2003, p. 47). In this sense, experiencing the self through the process of creative expressive arts means to stand aside and attend to the images which are given.

Creative expression is more than just aesthetic and “simply gesture and trace” as suggested Arya (2011, p. 84), it is a source of combustion through which our internal images come to life and carry us beyond the day to day, towards an active engagement with our inner world, with our feelings and experiences. This offers forms of sustenance, renewal, and possibly healing.



Arya, R. (2011). Contemplation of the spiritual in visual art. Journal for the Study of Spirituality (1)1, 76-93.

Fox, M. (1983). Original blessing. Bear & Co Publishers.

Halprin, D. (2003). The expressive body in life, art and therapy: Working with movement, metaphor and meaning. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.