Among the benefits of trying your hand at any area of the arts -- dance, music, visual art, theater -- is the satisfaction you get from making something that is uniquely yours.

Personally, the act of writing is the place I am most at home. I often refer to it as my conflict-free area.

Erica Pierson takes that feeling of satisfaction one step beyond in a weekly course that begins on Monday and continues for 11 meetings through April 22. Her course is part of the Art for Healing program at Mercy Hospital coordinated by Sister Sherry Dolan.

"This art therapy group will explore how to increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction in life," Pierson said.

Her method involves having each person create a piece of art that reflects a personal experience and then talking about it with the facilitator and other members of the group.

As a kind of ice-breaker, she begins by letting participants choose the media they want to work with.

"Providing different kinds of art materials allows participants to discover which media is most meaningful and comfortable for them as an individual," she said, "which in turn can make their art-making process less inhibited."

Among the choices are chalk pastels, oil pastels, markers and colored pencils; acrylic and water color paints; tissue paper, collage images, fabric; and some form of clay.

This is the second time Pierson has facilitated an art therapy group for the Art for Healing program. In the past year, she has led similar groups at Haven Counseling Center. Currently, she is studying art therapy at Phillips Graduate Institute in Chatsworth.

The meeting on Monday is mainly for informational purposes. Group members must sign a consent to treatment form and confidentiality agreement in order to participate. For more information, write to her via email at

Auditions, auditions

Two local theater groups have announced auditions for upcoming productions.

Bakersfield Community Theatre began its tryouts for "Slave Narratives" Wednesday night, and the second round is slated for this evening.

Kenneth Whitchard, BCT's new artistic director, said the show is part of the theater's annual observance of Black History Month.

The script will be drawn from the hundreds of slave stories that have been published in the last 150 years.

"It's something that Drew (Hallum) and I are putting together from actual slave narratives," he said. "Cast size will be determined after the auditions."

The production opens on Feb.15 and closes on March 13.

Meanwhile, Stars Restaurant Theatre will hold auditions on Saturday afternoon for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "South Pacific," which runs March 1 through 23.

Like most of the dinner theater's shows, the cast must be multi-talented, so be prepared to demonstrate your ability to sing, dance and act.

Makes me wonder who will have the honor of "Washing that man right out of (her) hair."

Nat Dove's blues award

Blues and boogie pianist Nat Dove, who's lived in Bakersfield for 10 years or so, has done a lot of traveling in the past six months.

In the early part of summer he was in Bryan, Texas, which is not far from the community of Mumford, where he was born in 1939, to direct the inaugural Bryan Texas Blues Festival. Fittingly, the two-day event was subtitled: "Bringing the Blues Back Home."

Two weeks later Dove was in Washington, D.C., where he was one of those who performed for an audience of more than 250,000 at the Smithsonian Institution's 45th Folklife Festival on the National Mall.

And on Jan. 29, he'll be in Memphis, Tenn., as one of the 15 recipients of the 2013 Keeping the Blues Alive Lifetime Achievement Awards, from The Blues Foundation. Each winner is placed in a specific category. Dove is in the education category.

The foundation is an international organization, something that's evident in the countries this year's recipients call home. Most are from the United States, but one winner is from Quebec in Canada, another lives in Norway and still another is from Spain.

In a statement regarding Dove's selection, the foundation cited his "long and successful career in music as a performer, composer and an in-demand sideman for some of the greats of music."

Yet he is being honored for his role as an educator. Dove, it said, devoted the past 30 years to teaching, writing books, and lecturing on African-American music and culture.

Locally, he has visited schools as an artist in residence for the Arts Council of Kern, and has given lectures at Cal State Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Museum of Art. He also has lectured in Tokyo, UC Santa Barbara and at New York University.

The Blues Foundation is an international organization founded in 1980. According to its website, it has 4,500 members.