About A.R.T.S. Anonymous

A.R.T.S. was founded November 5, 1984. Today there are chapters throughout the United States and Europe, as well as meetings in eastern Canada, northern Mexico, and Australia. An A.R.T.S. chapter consists of local artists who meet weekly for the sole purpose of encouraging the expression of their artistic spirit, and nurturing that spirit in others, regardless of sex, age, race, religion, or culture. “The only requirement for membership is a desire to fulfill our creative potential and to express our creative gifts,” says the A.R.T.S. Preamble. Members cherish their creativity and that of other’s, in all its forms be it dance, music, writing, visual arts, poetry, and/or theatre.

One of the central issues in most A.R.T.S. meetings is the de-emphasis on results—doing the footwork, and then letting go of the outcome. Because contemplation of fame, fortune, or critical acclaim related to artwork often causes a powerful block to the free-flowing of the creative process, members do not focus directly on “money, property, or prestige.” Success is defined as doing something every day that nurtures one’s creativity.

Members of A.R.T.S. do not give each other criticism or advice, even when actual art work is being shared -- which happens at one meeting each month. Feedback may be requested, but it is geared to how the artwork affects the viewer’s mind and heart rather than to how the work can be changed to meet some one else’s approval.

In A.R.T.S. we have the framework of a Twelve Step spiritual path to help us acknowledge and become open to all aspects, both positive and negative, of our individual lives. Through the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions we awaken to our deepest moral convictions and truths, removing the blocks to our inspiration and creativity.

The Beginning of A.R.T.S.

When A.R.T.S. began in November 1984, the members did not know what the name was of their common problem; only that “it” was blocking them from doing their art. They felt perversely fated to silently take their gifts stillborn to their graves, having never allowed their creative process the freedom to fully express itself. They knew that many irrational fears and beliefs blocked their creativity. But what kind of fears and beliefs were these? Where did they come from? What was the name of “it” that was causing such deep pain? Blocking and avoiding were all over their life. The Creative Block seemed to be only part of the problem, a symptom rather than the cause.

The first piece of A.R.T.S. literature came from New York City and the members referred to their avoidance problem as a syndrome without realizing the medical significance of the words “avoidant” and “syndrome”. The next two pieces of A.R.T.S. literature came from Boston and Los Angeles and also focused on avoidance. One painted in words the cruel nature of the compulsively avoidant artist. The other listed all the ways that an artist can avoid working at their art.

Fifteen years later while reading The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry, A.R.T.S. Founder Abigail B. came across a medically known reactionary personality disorder called “Avoidant” and that the avoidant group of symptoms taken together is called a “Syndrome!” Further this syndrome is marked with phobic fears of situations where one could be a visible target for rejection, betrayal, criticism, persecution, and harm. Alarming fears drive the avoidant personality to be risk averse in many areas of their life – not just in their art. Twenty years after A.R.T.S. began, the members named their dis-ease The Avoidant Syndrome.

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