Since the time when cavemen first painted on cave walls, art has played an important role in society. The power of art is evident in its many different forms. It not only serves to entertain us, relax us and bring about certain moods or emotions but it goes further than this. It can inspire, energize and challenge us too as well as be used to heal and transform.

Artists help us to look more closely at familiar objects that surround us. They help us to see what is there but cannot be easily seen. They enable us to see people, our environment and the world we live in from a different perspective.

Art goes beyond what we see and can actually influence our actions. Politicians have always realized this and used it as a tool for propaganda. Visual images can be very compelling. For example, various images of suffering Vietnamese children were used to influenced people to protest against the war in Vietnam.

Cultures all over the world have different ways of expressing their beliefs. They use music, painting, drama and dance as part of this expression. These forms are considered very important to preservation of cultural identity and are passed down through the generations.

Many great artworks through the ages have been inspired by religion. Medieval churches, in particular, relied upon artworks to get religious teachings across to the many illiterate people. In the Renaissance period the wealthy who could afford to hire artists often subsidized major religious paintings. Michelangelo is one of these artists who was supported in the creation of his greatest paintings.

An artwork can also be used to shock people. In this form we are challenged and begin to ask questions. We may be forced to question our beliefs. Its function may be to criticize an aspect of society such as prejudice or discrimination.

Art may be used as a therapeutic tool. It has great value as a form of self expression for those who need healing. Experiencing the creativity first hand has a positive effect on the mind, body and spirit. This has caught the attention of scientists who are now conducting research into its effects on patients. Studies are showing how hospitalized patients heal both physiologically and psychologically through artistic expression. It decreases pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Chemotherapy patients who are encouraged to paint during treatment also showed great reduction in stress levels.

It can be used powerfully in many other arenas too such as the classroom. It is a useful educational tool and there is evidence that children with learning disabilities respond better when exposed to arts programs. It is also helpful as a means of expression for those who have been traumatized by war, rape or other violence and particularly those who are unable to speak about what has happened to them.

Art is a joyful form of self expression. Artists create works that are meaningful to them and others find inspiration in them. These works uplift the senses and stimulate the imagination. The power of art can be used as a tool in many different fields from politics to education. One of the most powerful benefits is its therapeutic value where it has been proved to foster healing.

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