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Interviews

Exploring Art, Spirituality, and Social Change with Elana אלנה Merzin

Elana Weinstein, an artist and entrepreneur whose journey of rediscovering her creative passion amidst the challenges of the pandemic has been nothing short of transformative. Through her platform, CTOW (Counting the Omer Within), Elana intertwines her Jewish heritage, spirituality, and artistic expression to inspire positive change, promote healing, and contribute to the concept of “tikkun olam” (repairing the world). In this interview, Elana shares her insights on the profound connection between creativity, spirituality, and mental well-being, along with her vision for the future of her creative journey and the impact she hopes to make through her art and message. Get ready for an easy read that’s as inspirational as it is enlightening.

Can you share more about your personal journey and how the pandemic influenced your decision to reconnect with your creative side?

Ever since I was young, I have viewed and lived through the world creating without really knowing it. When the pandemic hit, I found myself in my childhood home in the basement, contemplating why I was there and how I got there figuratively and literally. I began to go deeper into the unknown but knew at the same time it was time to create again. I looked at my old color pencils, How much I missed them, the feeling, the connection I felt when I was creating and in the still. 

What challenges did you face while rediscovering your artistic passion, and how did you overcome them?

SOOOO many, I was let go from jobs, opportunities didn’t work, a LOT of re-direction occurred that brought me into “dark night of the soul.” I had to go deep within to really look at not only my life but what I want out of it and my CALLING. I am not sure how I did tbh, it got pretty challenging and dark at times, my art and connection to the practice of CTOW that I created and brought into my life was my safe haven.

How has your Jewish heritage and spirituality influenced your art and creative process?

It has played a HUGE part. I would not be creating what I am now if I wasn’t connected to my Jewish heritage and spirituality. I absolutely think the moments that I felt a void or something missing it has always been my relationship with my Jewish mysticism and creativity, they are me, and I am it. It is my life-force, it helps me stay not only grounded but dream things and ideas into existence. 


Can you discuss a specific piece of art that holds special meaning to you and explain its significance?

CTOW! Here it goes, more on the older blog post here, too:

What lessons have you learned about balancing creativity and professional responsibilities, especially within the nonprofit sector? 

After more than a decade in the nonprofit sector, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of embracing my identity fully and charting my own path. While navigating the delicate balance between my professional responsibilities and creativity, it became evident that I needed to venture into the unknown and pursue my entrepreneurial endeavors which has not come without sacrifice and hardships financially, emotionally, spiritually and everything in between. 

Transitioning out of the nonprofit sector full-time was a challenging decision, yet essential for me to fully immerse myself in nurturing and expanding upon my creative vision.

As my creative ventures began to flourish, I recognized the necessity of prioritizing my mental health alongside cultivating my creativity. These two aspects are intertwined, requiring intentional care and attention to ensure sustainable growth and fulfillment.

How do you believe creativity and spirituality can contribute to mental well-being and healing, particularly for women in high-impact roles?

Creativity and spirituality play profound roles in fostering mental well-being and healing, especially for women in high-impact roles. Creativity offers a channel for self-expression and exploration, allowing individuals to process emotions, navigate challenges, and cultivate resilience. 

Engaging in creative practices such as art, music, writing, or crafting provides a therapeutic outlet for stress relief and emotional release. For women in high-impact roles, who often face immense pressure and responsibilities, tapping into their creative side can offer a vital source of rejuvenation and self-care. 

Similarly, spirituality provides a framework for finding meaning, purpose, and connection to something greater than oneself. Whether through religious practices, meditation, mindfulness, or connecting with nature, spirituality offers solace and guidance during times of difficulty. It can serve as a source of inner strength, resilience, and perspective, helping women in high-impact roles navigate challenges with grace and authenticity.

By integrating creativity and spirituality into their lives, women in high-impact roles can cultivate holistic well-being, fostering mental, emotional, and spiritual resilience. These practices empower them to nurture themselves, maintain balance, and sustain their effectiveness in their professional endeavors while prioritizing their mental health and overall wellness.

What advice would you give to individuals who are hesitant to pursue their artistic interests or feel disconnected from their creative side?

For individuals hesitant to pursue their artistic interests or feeling disconnected from their creative side, I would offer the following advice:

  1. Embrace experimentation: Start by exploring different forms of creativity without pressure or expectations. Try various artistic mediums, such as painting, writing, cooking, or gardening, to discover what resonates with you.
  2. Cultivate curiosity: Approach creativity with an open mind and a sense of curiosity. Allow yourself to explore new ideas, techniques, and perspectives without judgment or self-criticism.
  3. Start small: Break down creative pursuits into manageable tasks or projects. Set aside dedicated time each day or week to engage in creative activities, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  4. Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself throughout the creative process. Understand that creativity is a journey, and it’s okay to make mistakes or encounter challenges along the way.
  5. Seek inspiration: Surround yourself with sources of inspiration, whether it’s through books, artwork, nature, or conversations with other creatives. Draw inspiration from diverse sources to spark your creativity and ignite your passion.
  6. Embrace imperfection: Let go of the need for perfection and embrace the beauty of imperfection in your creative endeavors. Recognize that creativity is about self-expression and personal growth, rather than achieving flawless results.
  7. Connect with others: Join creative communities, workshops, or classes where you can connect with like-minded individuals and gain support and encouragement. Sharing your creative journey with others can provide valuable feedback, inspiration, and camaraderie.
  8. Cultivate intuition: Tune into your inner voice and trust your instincts when it comes to creative decision-making. Pay attention to subtle cues, feelings, and insights that guide you towards meaningful creative expressions. Trusting your intuition can lead to unique and authentic artistic creations.

Remember that creativity is a natural and inherent part of being human. By taking small steps, exploring new possibilities, and nurturing your creative spark, you can reconnect with your artistic interests, inner child and unlock your full creative potential.

Can you share a memorable experience or achievement related to your art that has been particularly inspiring or fulfilling for you?

One particularly memorable experience related to my art journey is related to my venture, CTOW has been the freedom to explore and experiment with various mediums, messaging, colors, and vibes. This platform has provided me with a canvas to express myself authentically and unapologetically, allowing me to tap into different aspects of my creativity and identity.

Through this exploration, I’ve not only transformed my artistic expression but also my personal style, thoughts, and emotions. The process of experimenting with different creative elements has translated into how I dress, think, and feel, leading to a more holistic and integrated sense of self.

Moreover, CTOW has connected me with diverse communities where I feel fully accepted and embraced for who I am. These communities have become a source of inspiration, support, and encouragement, allowing me to thrive creatively and personally. Being a part of these communities has been deeply fulfilling, as I’ve found a sense of belonging and camaraderie that empowers me to be myself entirely.

In essence, the journey of artistic exploration within CTOW has been a transformative and empowering experience, shaping not only my creative expression but also my sense of identity, belonging, and fulfillment.

How do you envision the future of your creative journey and the impact you hope to make through your art and message?

As I look ahead to the future of my creative journey, I envision a path filled with continued growth, exploration, and meaningful impact. My goal is to leverage my art and message to inspire positive change, foster connection, and promote healing on both individual and collective levels.

I aspire to expand the reach of my creative endeavors through CTOW and beyond, reaching diverse audiences and communities with my authentic expression and messages of empowerment, self-discovery, and social change. Through my art, I hope to spark conversations, challenge perspectives, and ignite passion and action for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world.

Moreover, I aim to create inclusive spaces where individuals from all walks of life feel seen, heard, and valued. Whether through workshops, events, or digital platforms, I intend to cultivate communities where creativity thrives, and people feel empowered to embrace their unique identities and voices.

Ultimately, my vision is to leave a lasting impact through my art by inspiring others to embrace their creativity,  connect  with their inner selves, and contribute to positive change in the world. I believe that by staying true to my authentic expression and purpose, I can make a meaningful difference and leave a legacy of love, compassion, and empowerment through my creative journey.

What role do you think art plays in promoting social change and contributing to the concept of “tikkun olam” (repairing the world)

Art plays a powerful role in promoting social change and contributing to the concept of “tikkun olam,” or repairing the world, by serving as a catalyst for awareness, empathy, and action.

Firstly, art has the ability to shine a spotlight on social issues and injustices, bringing them to the forefront of public consciousness. Through visual representations, storytelling, and creative expression, artists can shed light on systemic issues such as inequality, discrimination, and environmental degradation, inspiring viewers to reflect, empathize, and engage with these issues on a deeper level.

Moreover, art has the potential to foster empathy and understanding by providing a platform for marginalized voices to be heard and stories to be shared. Through art, individuals can connect with the lived experiences of others, challenging preconceived notions and fostering a sense of solidarity and compassion across diverse communities.

Additionally, art has the power to inspire action and mobilize individuals towards positive change. Whether through protest art, community murals, or multimedia installations, artists can galvanize people to advocate for justice, equity, and sustainability, amplifying voices and driving collective action towards a more just and equitable society.

In essence, art serves as a powerful tool and catalyst for promoting social change and contributing to the concept of “tikkun olam” by raising awareness, fostering empathy, and inspiring action towards repairing the world and creating a brighter future for all.

Links:

https://www.atthewellproject.com/blog/counting-the-omer-reclaiming-my-spark

https://tikkunelana.my.canva.site/ctowartistjourney

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