We had the good fortune of connecting with Nerissa Balland and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nerissa, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
If I could offer you one word of advice, it’s flexibility. Having flexibility in both your personal and professional life is the key to success. The benefits of flexibility include relationship building, creative problem solving, increased mindfulness, and it opens the door for possibilities with yourself and others.
During my early and mid-career years as a designer and advertiser, I struggled with flexibility. It took me nearly 20 years, a cancer diagnosis, and a drastic career change to really grasp the application of flexibility. You see, I always “felt” I was fair and flexible, but when I took a hard look at the patterns in my leadership, I was limited by my “fear of failure.” In one regard, this fear was a great motivator to push me through certain hurdles. However, in the end, this “fear” wasn’t physiological; it was physiological, and it did more harm than good. Once I got out of my own way, the path to flexibility became clear. I’m a better leader, more innovative, and most importantly, unconfined and genuinely happy.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I guess it’s fair to say that to understand an artist truly; you need to know his or her story. I’m a visual storyteller inspired by the environment as I see, hear, and feel it.
August 17, 2016, my world as I knew it was forever changed. I received a phone call when I was five and a half months pregnant with my second son, and I informed, “you have cancer.” It turned out that call was also a metaphoric “wake-up” call. Cancer is and has been one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced. While I’m currently “cancer-free,” it is common for survivors to experience PTSD symptoms. I had learned to cope with the anxiety of its potential return and the guilt that accompanies survival, especially when many people just like me didn’t get a second chance. Life after cancer is never the same. Imagine dealing with an opponent you never actually meet, who is sneaky, invasive, and doesn’t play by the rules.
Simultaneously, with a strong mindset and positive perspective, the cancer journey can also become an opportunity for constructive transformation. I tread lightly on that statement. I wholeheartedly believe that Cancer, for me, awakened an opportunity to be truthful with myself and explore what type of person I was and what type of life I had led. More importantly, it fast-tracked me to uncover what I wanted to do with the time I have left. What legacy I wanted to leave. Not something your average 38-year-old ponders about. And yes, time, the concept and definition of it changed for me. I cherish it. I value it. And it hasn’t got a price.
In 2018, after 18 years as a marketing professional, I quit my job and pursued my passion as a full-time artist. That passion soon turned to a purpose. My cancer journey paved my professional shift. I’m an artist, arts-in-health practitioner, coach, and mother. I help adults and children bounce-back from physical and emotional adversity. I combine my love and knowledge of creativity, therapeutic art, and neuroscience to reduce health issues caused by stress. I have a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Pratt Institute and numerous certifications in Therapeutic Arts, Neurolinguistics, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. Currently, I work as a visual artist in South Florida with exhibitions that span — from Miami Art Week to faith-based institutions, universities, and hospitals.
When I’m not producing art, I develop and facilitate creative wellness workshops for several local organizations that include the University of Miami Hillel, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Michael-Ann Russell JCC, Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus, Suzy Fischer Early Childhood Academy, Miami-Dade Public School District 3, and Sharsheret. I’m most proud that I have the ability to thrive in times of adversity. I was able to turn a passion into a purpose, further my education, and credentials, fulfill my creative needs, and help people heal so that they too could identify their own opportunities.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That’s an interesting question. Given we are in the midst of a global pandemic and places to go are limited, I’d keep the activities outdoors-related. We’d visit the beach, Wynwood Walls, the Fairchild Botanical Gardens (specifically the butterfly conservatory), Santa’s Enchanted Forest (if it’s open), and the Tidal Cove waterpark! If you couldn’t tell from my selections, I’m a mother. My adventures these days are very PG!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It takes a village! Many people have played a part in helping me strive to be the best version of myself. First, my husband, Michael. His support, love, and humor have undoubtedly allowed me to flourish physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and intellectually. Second, my Cancer Coach, Leslie, her insight and wisdom helped guide me to explore the parts of me I was afraid to know. Third, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Option B, a book that allowed me to heal through adversity at my own speed. Lastly, Rabbi Robert Davis, who had a tremendous spiritual impact in defining my relationship with the world around me and with a higher power.
Website: https://www.artandsoulmiami.com/, https://www.nerissaballand.art/
Instagram: @artandsoulmiami, @nerissaballandart