Baylor Professor Takes Part in International Conference on Improving Quality of Life

May 30, 2007
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by Frank Raczkiewicz

Dr. Michael Frisch, a professor of psychology at Baylor University and a nationally recognized authority in the emerging field of positive psychology, will participate in an international conference focusing on using the arts to promote a person's quality of life.

The roundtable discussion, which will be held June 1 at the Rockefeller Estate in New York, will bring together 15 "distinguished scholars" in fields such as psychology, public health and sociology to try to answer a fundamental question: based on existing theories and evidence about identity, well-being and resilience, what types of artistic and cultural pursuits are likely to lead to a higher quality of life for citizens?

"I am very humbled to be asked to share my thoughts because the conference is dominated by Ivy League professors, including the founder of the positive psychology movement, Martin E.P. Seligman," said Frisch, who has put forth arguably the most comprehensive approach to positive psychology in a new book, Quality of Life Therapy.

The gathering is funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, and will be hosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Recently, several experts have cited the work environment, healthy family life and religion as sources of post-consumerist quality of life. However, they say strong anecdotal evidence exists that participation in music, visual art, media, dance, literature and drama also produces elevated levels of life satisfaction.

"We are losing our creativity as a culture and it is cutting students out of a major source of joy as we pursue other things like required testing and TAKS to the exclusion of the arts," Frisch said. "We need to reintroduce the arts into school curriculums and learn to value it as much as we value sports, or it will die."

Frisch will argue that it takes vision and the energy of the creative spirit to manifest our desires into a future people can build a community around. Frisch said he would like to add the depth and integrity of artistic vision themselves as components of leadership. Art is representative of the best of the soul of a community, large or small, and requires little to fan its fires into a blaze, he said. Artists are resourceful and their need to create requires they be creative and productive no matter the exterior constraints.

"Art is ultimately inclusive and can be participated in multiple ways by people of all ages, means, limitations and cultures," Frisch said. "The creative nature of the artist not only benefits our physical surroundings but integrates itself into processes like marketing and sales."

For more information, contact Dr. Frisch at (254) 710-2252.

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