Art-Care Practices for Restoring the Communal:
Education, Co-Inquiry and Healing

Co-written by Barbara A. Bickel & R. Michael Fisher
Published by Routledge, 2023

Watch the Book Launch and the Conversation
with co-authors Barbara A. Bickel and R. Michael Fisher along with Bracha L. Ettinger, who wrote the Foreword and Geraldine Burke, who wrote the Afterword along with attendees.

Book Launch – 65 minutes
Post Book Launch Conversation – 75 minutes

Book Description

This book contributes to a larger global call to radically re-create ourselves—to transform our fear and alienation from art, Nature and ourselves. It nurtures a magical, mythical, integral reenchantment of art in relationship with all others—human and more-than-human. With compassion and grace, the co-authors outline how all people, in small circles of community, may access the gift of Spontaneous Creation-Making and change dominant narratives of individualism through a restoration of the communal. Re-discovering interconnectivity through art-care we can dream courageously together into the unknown possibilities of a precarious future.

Art-care, as coined by the co-authors, is a matrixial form of communicaring through art and reverence. Based on the co-authors many years of engagement with communal creative practices, teaching, activism and a COVID-19 initiated Restorative Lab Project through Studio M*, this book demonstrates practices supported and enlarged by art, creativity research, relational healing and process theories. The book draws upon matrixial, maternal, precolonial and decolonizing worldviews. Uniquely, it provides a practical way to creatively enter into the beauty and complexity of artist-theorist-activist Bracha L. Ettinger’s Matrixial Theory. In sharing practices rooted in ritual, the body and emplacement, the book offers possibilities for expanding and transforming imaginaries, time perceptions, movements, healing, social action, and beauty.

Art-care is available to everyone and not limited to artists. Shared creative practices call forth open-inquiry, fragility, awe and compassion by experimenting with what the co-authors name Matrixial Aesthetic Practices and Matrixial Mediators. This theoretically-informed and practice-based book bridges the individual with the communal in creation-centered ways that interweave the many parts with the whole. It provides examples of teachings, practices and spontaneous creations of 22 makers that will benefit those who want to integrate art-care into individual practices and/or group facilitation. This book was created to benefit socially-engaged artists, arts-based researchers, artist-philosophers, activists, students, teachers, organizers, therapists, caregivers and more.


How lovely and inspiring to read this remarkable work of art / artistry, creativity, community and consciousness of connecting and interconnectivity. This work offers an aesthetic / creative, emancipatory caring pathway for human healing during and after a pandemic crisis. This book invites and evokes fresh new insights, where wisdom is discovered and co-created from within and among circles of caring. 

Jean Watson, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, LL (AAN)
Founder Watson Caring Science Institute
Distinguished Prof/Dean Emerita University of Colorado Denver, College of Nursing

This engaging book both describes and performs a group’s artistic journey during the challenging times of COVID. Experiential, communal, playful, and moving, the book points at possibilities and opportunities for aesthetic explorations and artistry within a special space. Co-inquiry through Spontaneous Creation-Making offers everyone a compelling journey of art-making, aesthetic explorations, along with ideas for facilitation and communal care serving the future.

Liora Bresler, Ph.D. Professor Emerita, University of Illinois, College of Education & School of Art and Design, Urbana-Champaign

Bickel and Fisher present us with a guidebook for connection and healing through the practice of spontaneous art-making, a practice they themselves have been involved with for many years. This is a hopeful book based on their experiences—art not as escape but as engagement both with ourselves and those around us. Caring, compassion, community: these are the roads the world always needs more of, and this book offers a unique way of starting the journey.

Eva Tihanyi, author of The Largeness of Rescue, Flying Underwater: Poems New and Selected, and Truth and Other Fictions.

I am very impressed by Barbara Bickel and Michael Fisher’s articulation of the art process, community, and especially their collaborative spirit! They are both so very inspiring! Their book feeds the soul with artistic methods and prompts that reawaken the senses through play and observation.

Dr. Katrina Plato, registered art therapist and educator

This book weaves together theories, practices, images, text-based forms, and 30 years of work to offer insights into creative communal practices that co-authors Bickel and Fisher call Spontaneous Creation-Making.Through this compelling and timely guidebook we are invited to enter sacred, mysterious and playful borderspaces that lead us to deeper understandings and more nuanced explorations of art-care methods but also, for example, of community, creativity, healing/wholism, (un)learning, and inquiry.This is an important resource for anyone who is interested in engaging with and/or facilitating creative processes, even in virtual contexts. This book is a gift! 

Kathy Mantas, PhD. Professor, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, Ontario, Canada

Table of Contents

Foreword: Bracha L. Ettinger

PART ONE: Communidreaming on Theory

Chapter 1: Introduction: Art-as-Process
Chapter 2: Care-in-the-Making
Chapter 3: Creativity-in-Communion
Chapter 4: A Story of Collaboration: Spontaneous Creation-Making
Chapter 5: Art-Care and Communitas: Spiritual Activism in a Time of Crisis
Chapter 6: Beyond Method: Matrixial Mediators
Chapter 7: Birthing aMatrixial Gift Economy
Chapter 8: Matrixial Time Freedom

PART TWO: Spontaneous Creating on Process

Chapter 9: Spontaneous Creation-Making: Communal Rituals and Expanding Imaginaries
Chapter 10: Spontaneous Creation-Making: Orienting Intentions and Body Grounding
Chapter 11: Spontaneous Creation-Making: Responding and Closing the Circle

PART THREE: Gestating on Service

Chapter 12: Follow the Dreaming: Nurturing a Communal Art-Care Practice
Chapter 13: An Arts-Based Reenchantment: Following Nature
Chapter 14: Afterword: Forging New Intersections
Geraldine Burke
Chapter 15: A Turnabout Postscript

Appendix 1: Thirteen Matrixial Aesthetic Practices (MAPs)
Appendix 2: Facilitating Art-Care Online
Appendix 3: A-D-ness Model
Appendix 4: Excerpt from Opening Doors
Appendix 5: Participant Informed Research Creation Consent From


We hold deep gratitude for those who gave permission to share their Spontaneous Creation-Making stories and writing from the Restorative Lab Project: Adrienne Adams, Mara Alper, Wendalyn Bartley, Candace Batycki, Liora Bresler, Geraldine Burke, Diane Conrad, Bruce Entus, Cristina Gonzaléz, Sally Gradle, Tomas Jonsson, Nané Jordan, Barb Kennedy, Shannon MacKinnon, Hallie Morrison, Sue Raven, Pamela Richardson, and Gregory Wendt.

We extend special thanks to Geraldine Burke for contributing her self reflective Afterword and to Bracha L. Ettinger for her devotional and healing Matrixial theory and teachings that infuse our sense-thinking-hearts and her painting that graces the cover of this book.