Healium: Art to Lift the Spirit

More stories from Blake Fowler


Blake Fowler

The Healium Center welcomes you to open your heart to the therapeutic abilities of art and step away from the stress of everyday life.

Society is mean. Welcome to the real world, where anyone can see anything you post online and everyone can be critical about it. There will always be someone with a scathing comment about something, and art is no exception. I demand justice. I seek refuge from the haters. I wanted to find a place where I could relax and make art without worrying what humankind would think of me, and I found it; I found the Healium Center.

As I stepped into the Healium Center, I was greeted by a long hall with art lining every inch of the wall. The pieces were beautiful; some were vivid and fun, others severe and dark, but every brushstroke of every painting delivered the emotional monologues of artists who found refuge from a world where art is about the result, not the process.
In today’s society, people are discouraged from making art for fear of negative judgment and criticism. Jim Peera founded The Healium Center to help people warm up to the idea of self-expression in a non-judgmental environment.
“It was a need that I had to find a place where I could just release my daily grind, activate my inner [creativity], and just be able to articulate without judgment or pretense, and it’s hard to find a place like that,” Peera said. “And necessity is the mother of invention.”

Jim and Donna Peera showcase local art in front of the Healium
(Jim Peera)
Donna Peera (left) and Jim Peera (right) encourage all to experience the curative powers of art.
At 5:30 p.m., as people began to trickle in, the atmosphere began to change. Strangers sat next to each other, brushes in hand, quietly concentrating on every stroke of color, as if entranced by their own creations. One woman sat at a table across from the door, pouring paint neatly into a palette. She didn’t believe she was much of an artist, but she liked to paint when she could because it helps her relax.
Peera personally believes that every person is born an artist.
“I think that from the day that we’re born we all have certain creative juices within us and when we’re younger, we take that for granted,” Peera said. “We’re not critical of what we’re doing. We’ll draw, we’ll paint, build little houses out of stones, we’ll create.”
Throughout the room, there are stacks of art supplies that appear to be in disorder, but everything is fairly easy to find; the easels are on the left, the paint is on a table to the right, and dozens of smocks hang from hooks by the door. Next to the smocks, a sheet of paper hangs on the wall with a quote that reads “Art is a wound turned into light.”
“When you look at the logo of Healium, you’ve got a big red ‘U’, and that symbolizes the ‘you’ in everyone. This place is about you, for you, with you in mind,” Peera said. “When you allow yourself to open up and you allow yourself to express your imperfections, your dark side, you open up your vulnerabilities. That’s when I would say true healing occurs.”
Many people visit the Healium Center religiously, coming every Wednesday to calm their nerves after work. Because they visit so often, it is not just their art that improvesso too does their state of being. For those suffering from depression or anxiety, art is often a refuge where they can transform their emotions into tangible compositions rather than bottling them up. In fact, Healium even offers empty wine bottles as a medium for art.
For those less interested in creating art with paint, pencils, or other conventional artistic tools, Healium hosts a weekly “Open Jam” every Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. All musicians 18 and over are allowed a chance at the mic, so long as they are not disrespectful, and they bring their own instruments. Previously at the jam, artists have performed rap music, acoustic covers, poems, jazz and even unrehearsed drum displays.
At the end of the hallway is a sparsely lit room that has been dubbed “The Spiritual Room.” “The Spiritual Room’’ is a room where visitors of all faiths or of no faith at all are allowed to sit, relax, and clear their minds.
“When people come to Healium, what we find is that they’re coming out of work, they have a lot of stuff in their head, they’ve had, you know, maybe a rough day or a rough week. They’re holding a lot; it’s a busy mind,” Peera said. “You’ve got to unwind, and you’ve got to empty the contents of that busy mind …One of the things about art is you get in trouble when you think too much because art doesn’t come from the head, art comes from the heart.”