Liza Behrendt: 2009 AHN Awardee

"Water reminds us that there is no separation between our selves and our environment. It does this in practical ways, and symbolically: it flows, it is clear, it takes the shape of its containers yet it pushes beyond, it is soft yet strong " ~ Liza Behrendt

The Arts & Healing Network is delighted to present one of the 2009 AHN Awards to Liza Behrendt, the founder of Beauty of Water Ė a multi-year project dedicated to expanding the human appreciation for water through artistic collaborations. Initiated in 2006, this non-profit has created many community-based art experiences, exhibitions, and workshops around the world with an emphasis on preserving and honoring the beautiful resource of water.

The Arts & Healing Network applauds Liza for being a big thinker Ė her vision is large, collaborative, and international. She has created a wonderful chronicle of her journey in founding Beauty of Water on her blog Ė  sharing the ups and downs and inspirations and insights of generating this incredible project.

Below is an interview by Arts & Healing Network Director, Mary Daniel Hobson with Liza Behrendt from August 2009:

Mary Daniel: Do you believe art can be a catalyst for healing?

Liza: Art has surely healed me. Healing is about becoming whole again, and in this sense it brings us back into oneness with each other and with the planet. There are so many good healing modalities. I like art because it works on many levels at once, connecting us inward, with our own soul and spirit, and outward, with the world around us... And with our collective realms, like collective consciousness, which is full of imagery and power. I am partial to exploring collaborative art making, and I believe this can be healing for groups as well, helping us recognize how we are all always in community. Through art we can bridge belief systems around the world. And art can help us heal our relationship with the planet. Making art is almost always a positive thing to do.

Mary Daniel: Please talk a bit about how your work is inspired by healing the waters of our world.

Liza: The idea for Beauty of Water came to me one day when I was feeling especially peaceful and happy. I was walking aimlessly near a small waterfall and stream on Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California, and suddenly I could see an image in my mindís eye of this fun and exciting project to do. The project seemed ripe. I understood it from many angles, and for the first time, at age 40, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It felt and continues to feel like the right thing for me to be doing. If it is healing for the waters, then I am in gratitude for getting to have some intimacy with water. Itís my job to commune with water every day. After I got that initial download I started seeing how connective the project could be for people. I liked the thought of people around the world creating art ďtogetherĒ on the same theme - appreciation for water. It seems important to me that we focus attention on what we love about water, not only on water problems. Water reminds us that there is no separation between our selves and our environment. It does this in practical ways, and symbolically - it flows, it is clear, it takes the shape of its containers, yet it pushes beyond, it is soft yet strong. We have so much water in us, we are born in water, we all share water, and more.

Mary Daniel: What advice do you have for other artists wishing create positive change in the world?

Liza: The most important thing is to take a step, the first step that comes to mind when reading this. If it seems too big, take a smaller step, and we usually know what that step is. If it seems too small of a step, thatís okay, itís still a good starting point. Small steps are needed if there is a big vision. And we can look at what is going well. We can take regular inventory of every little thing we are doing with heart, with love, with intention, and with yearning for something greater. Thatís excellent. We need to remember to feel good about even just having a wish.

Mary Daniel: So many artists write to us at the Arts & Healing Network looking for funding and support. Do you have any advice you might offer them?

Liza: First, we can see if the work we feel most passionate about can be carried out using less money. Whatís the essential message or action we are doing? Does it really require a lot of money to do it? If the money doesnít show up what will we do? Maybe that is the place to start. Second, partner up. Where are the alignments among those who have affinity for our work and how can we share ideas, resources, space, and materials symbiotically to make things happen? Next, there are a lot of metaphysical teachings available about living abundantly, and we can embody abundance in so many ways. Finally, letís acknowledge that itís a whole lot easier for people who have greater privilege to say these things, and letís allow grief, rage, confusion, and a sorting out of the inequities in life. If we look at how privileged we are to even make art at all, perspective can shift. I am sitting with this line of inquiry these days, and I donít have the answers. Itís worth looking at the many angles of this question.

Mary Daniel: Please share one book, person, or resource that has deeply inspired you in your creative work.

Liza: I love Anna Halprin and the Planetary Dances she and colleagues initiated. I think there is so much healing potential in movement, and one does not have to be highly trained to give and receive benefit through dance.

Mary Daniel: Is there anything else you would like to say or share?

Liza: If all of our worldís problems were solved and all of our personal and interpersonal problems faded, what would we humans do? I imagine that there would be little left to do but have extremely fun parties and make amazing art.

I welcome new collaboration possibilities. Please contact me through the Beauty of Water website. Thank you.

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