In honor of Diabetes Art Day today, we interviewed founder Lee Ann Thill to learn what Diabetes Art Day is all about and how it came to be.
Also check out some of our very own diabetes works of art:
Omnipod: What made you decide to start Diabetes Art Day?
Lee Ann: I’m an art therapist, so I occasionally wrote about art therapy and how I thought art-making could benefit people with diabetes on my diabetes blog. Because I promoted the benefits of art-making, creating a DOC (Diabetes Online Community) art event was suggested to me in 2010. I was enthusiastic about how art-making can help people with diabetes, but I was initially reluctant to create an art event because I know it takes a lot of people out of their comfort zone and I didn’t think people would be receptive.
I set aside my doubts though and announced Diabetes Art Day on my blog. Other people in the DOC promoted the initiative through social media and it took off from there. People were so receptive that I made it an annual event and created a website for it: www.diabetesartday.com.
Omnipod: Can you talk a little bit about what Diabetes Art Day is?
Lee Ann: Diabetes Art Day is an online event for people affected by diabetes to create a piece of artwork that expresses something about diabetes, or as I like to say, “tells a story” about people’s personal experiences living with diabetes. On Diabetes Art Day participants post their artwork on the Diabetes Art Day website’s 2012 gallery and other social media platforms they use, like Facebook and Twitter. They can also share their art with people offline, telling them about Diabetes Art Day and how their artwork represents their experience with diabetes.
Diabetes Art Day is about using creativity which fosters creative problem-solving skills that people with diabetes need to best manage their diabetes. It’s about communicating people’s personal experiences with diabetes through the universal language of art and it’s about connecting to others by sharing art and viewing the art of others.
Omnipod: Who participates in Diabetes Art Day?
Lee Ann: Anyone affected by diabetes can participate, including people with type 1, type 2 and less common forms of diabetes. I also encourage people to get their families and loved ones involved because diabetes affects the entire family. Some people like to have family art-making sessions and others have found ways to have art-making parties through community diabetes organizations or networks of local friends affected by diabetes.
Omnipod: How would you say Diabetes Art Day helps to spread diabetes awareness?
Lee Ann: “A picture is worth 1000 words” rings true for Diabetes Art Day. Imagery captures emotion and experience in a way that words sometimes don’t. Looking at the artwork relays something visceral about the experience of living with diabetes that people who don’t live with diabetes don’t necessarily recognize otherwise.
When people who participate in Diabetes Art Day share artwork online, as well as in real life with family, friends and colleagues, it is a unique way to capture attention and educate people about diabetes. People are naturally drawn to imagery and looking at imagery can elicit a more primal emotional response… it sticks with people. The DOC needs diabetes to stick to people so they will better understand the challenges we face, and in turn, join our efforts to support and advocate.
Omnipod: What are some of the most unique artwork pieces you’ve seen?
Lee Ann: I genuinely love them all and I’m so grateful to each person who contributes because that’s what has made Diabetes Art Day successful, so I don’t like to single out any of the art. It’s not about the best or the most unique art; it’s about putting your heart into it so your art tells your unique story. Each piece of art is valuable for the story behind it.
For everyone, even people who consider themselves artistically inclined, it takes a leap of faith to show a piece of artwork, a reflection of one’s inner world, on the Internet for the world to see. I want everyone who participates to feel like their work is valid and honored, no matter their artistic skill level or what they make. That’s a very important part of Diabetes Art Day and I think it’s what has allowed the project to flourish.
If you’d like to submit your diabetes-inspired artwork to the Diabetes Art Day website today, just click here.