How does beauty matter? And what is beauty? You’ll be surprised…

I recently sat down with Angela Houk to discuss an upcoming workshop in Folsom on October 7, The Power of Beauty. Angela, Director of New Joy Arts in Folsom and an instructor in the Studio at The Crocker Art Museum, has been thinking and teaching about beauty for 20 years. I talked to her about the upcoming session.

Scott Schafer

Director, Good Story Workshops


Scott Schafer (SS): Many people, when they hear of this workshop, are going to think of “appearances” – it seems to be the go-to definition of beauty in the popular culture, that beauty is about how something looks. But that’s not what this workshop is about…. can you explain?

Angela Houk (AH): That’s a very narrow definition of beauty. We won't be talking about cosmetics or fashion or physical attraction. And in fact, we wouldn’t care about how something looks – the artifice of beauty – if that didn’t point at something deeper. It’s that deeper reality we’re going to explore in this workshop.

For example, if you ask the question, “what makes a work of art move us?” – beauty is the thing that draws us into the work of art. Or a work of architecture, or a creation of technology, or a development within a community. When you start to unpack that, it’s way more complex than it seems at first blush. And it’s not just a personal thing, but a communal connection. Beauty is not merely personal and subjective, but something much bigger. We’ll look at how that works across art, design, technology, and communities. What we find is that beauty is the quality of excellence for which our hearts long, in any context. It’s a fundamental part of what it means to be human.


SS: What was the genesis of this workshop?

AK: I’ve been teaching and speaking on the subject of identity and finding value and purpose and meaning. That led to thinking about carefully crafted lives, which naturally led to questions about what connects us as humans. It’s clear that we’re communal beings. I found that many of the ways that we function as communal beings overlapped with theories of beauty that I’ve explored as an artist. This workshop is the synthesis of those connections.


SS: If there is one thing you would want people to know about beauty, what is it?

AK: That beauty matters…it’s not the frosting on the cake; it isn’t an extra or a nicety, but fundamental. Across the world, in every area of life, beauty matters, regardless of your life or socio-economic situation. The way beauty works pervades every culture. It transforms, and gives purpose and continuity to life. Without beauty, we are less.


SS: How does a better understanding of beauty effect one’s daily life? What are the possibilities?

AK: A better understanding of beauty affects the way that we engage the world around us. It changes our perspective, our outlook, what we are looking for, and why we do what we do.


SS: I’ve heard you say that beauty moves cultures…what do you mean?

AK: In times where hatred seems to be a more powerful force, it’s easy to lose sight of how beauty moves, unifies and motivates us. Beauty speaks from a deeper place than fear, and calls us to do what is hard and risky. Fear and hatred do not motivate us to that kind of movement.


SS: Who would benefit from this workshop?

AK: Anyone. People who long to live their lives with more purpose or who want navigate their careers and lives with deeper motivation will gain a lot from this workshop. The things we’ll explore in the workshop are not only powerful, but they’re extremely practical.


SS: Good Story Workshops are generally very interactive and deliver “use-it-right-away” tools. Are there things participants will walk away with that they can use Monday morning?

AK: Absolutely. This workshop is both theoretical and hands-on. They’ll discover some creative practices that are useful every day and in every situation. They’ll also go home with many more resources that they can pursue to get more beauty into their lives. And we’ll discuss some community events that they can participate in to take their explorations to the next step. 

Find out more about our workshop The Power of Beauty and register here.

Relationships Q&A with Evey DeRoos

Next month, on June 10, Good Story Workshops is presenting Wired for Relationships: How Brain, Body and Relationships Interact and Change Each Other. I spoke with Evey DeRoos, the Folsom-based psychotherapist who developed and is presenting this workshop.

Scott Schafer

Director, Good Story Workshops

Scott Schafer [SS]: What’s this workshop about?

Evey DeRoos [ED]: Optimizing our relationships AND our brain.   Specifically, how our physical brain operates in relationship and how relationship alters the physical brain.  We will be learning ways to support and integrate the development of each, gaining insights to maximize the "human operating system."  You can take advantage of how the system works and improve it.  Understanding how it works can have big impacts on your life.


[SS] Where would this have impact? Are we talking about marriages and significant others?

[ED] Yes, but way beyond that. The things we’ll explore in the workshop are applicable to all relationships - with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  The more we make time to strengthen our brains and relationships, the more we can improve not just our own lives,  we can also increase our positive impact in the world around us.  This represents serious hope for change.


[SS] What’s was the genesis of this workshop?

[ED] As a psychotherapist, I work with the fallout of relational difficulties on a regular basis.   I was very intrigued in the early 2000's when I first starting hearing rumblings of new discoveries in neuroscience that apply specifically to relationships,  and since then continue to voraciously pursue the findings of key researchers in the field.  While the 90's is considered the "Decade of the Brain," the phenomenal discoveries of neuroscience continue to increase as well as confirm what many of us have understood intuitively about the power and significance of bio-psycho-social brain processes.  Some of our misconceptions are being disconfirmed (such as "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," and "As we age, our brain cells die off and are never replaced.")  We now understand that the brain is malleable – it can change and transform – and relationships play a huge role in this.  Understanding the neurobiology involved in relational challenges can reduce a lot of guilt and shame, and can encourage us that positive change is possible.  In particular, I love learning and teaching practices that increase our brains' capacity for joy and peace and I want to spread the good news!  This has very practical implications for every person and every relationship.


[SS] Who is this workshop for? Who would benefit?

[ED] Those who would like to learn more about themselves, about others, about the human operating system.  Some people will come in knowing that they have things to learn, but others who think they are doing pretty well in relationships will also benefit.  It’s a classic case of “you don’t know what you don’t know," and people are pleasantly surprised by how useful these tools are.


[SS] What do people generally not understand about the role of the brain in relationship?

[ED] We cannot improve one without the other! We cannot separate them, yet much of their mutual influence runs at "invisible" levels outside of our awareness in powerful ways.  The brain is not just about what is going on inside your head, but includes your entire nervous system and vital organs. Once we have greater awareness of what is going on in these systems, we have more potential to improve both the operation of our brain and our relationships.  We can consciously rewire our brain for better relationships, and healthy relationships can rewire our brain for better overall function.


[SS] At Good Story Workshops, we always want to provide people with practical tools that they can, as we like to say, “use Monday morning”. Will that be true in this workshop?

[ED] Yes. Not just Monday morning, but immediately! We’ll be using and practicing new skills right in the workshop. These will be simple and practical tools that when taken home and practiced regularly can increase peace, joy and satisfaction. It will be both fun and full of hope.


Find out more about our workshop Wired for Relationships and register here.