Jason Wasiak is a Northern California artist who was a Scenic Artist for Universal Studios and various other theme parks throughout the country. In addition, he has experience as a performance artist doing live art shows for the general public. This year, he teamed up with the American Heart Association to develop a community art therapy webinar to benefit stroke survivors and their caregivers.
Research shows that art can increase memory and improve all-over cognitive functioning. After a stroke, art therapy can be extremely beneficial. The webinar helped participants create pop up cards using simple items they could find at home.
Art is wonderful way to express yourself with positive health benefits,” said Wasiak. “After a stroke artistic endeavors can be important to your enjoyment of life and your brain health.
Recovering from a stroke can be a long and difficult process. For many stroke survivors art helps them to strengthen their fine motor skills by giving special attention to techniques and movements that may help stimulate brain function and improve hand-eye coordination.
Our fine motor skills are how we use our hands and coordinate the small muscles that control our fingers,” he added. “Those skills, along with other arm functions such as reaching and grasping, can be affected by stroke.
Wasiak understands firsthand how stroke can impact a person. In 2007, his close friend Maggie suffered a debilitating stroke. He watched her struggle and developed the art webinar with Maggie in mind.
In the webinar, stroke survivors, at all levels of stroke recovery, and their caretakers were invited to experience making art while also sharing their stories.
"Using art in the creative process as a tool for therapy is about the most powerful thing you can have," Wasiak said. "It gets to a place much quicker than if you're just verbally processing. There's so much research out there that shows it helps fight depression, anxiety and isolation."
Art is beneficial because fine motor activities after stroke can help improve hand and finger mobility. Hand and finger movement is often slower to recover than the arm or leg. That’s because the extremities are farther from the midline of the body, so recovery takes more effort.
Through art, participants can feel empowered and excited about their ability to create art. More importantly, participants had a safe space to share and explore their creativity. Plus, they had a beautiful pop up card to share with someone in their lives.