ARTS IN HEALTHCARE
THURSDAY MARCH 22nd, 2012
Turns out many outside of Michigan have a fresh point of view about Detroit and a lot of it centers on the arts, artists and creativity. Take a look online at the Society for the Arts in Healthcare for a sampling of notable articles from publications like the New York Times and W Magazine on activities in the arts and healthcare scenes that shed a bright light Detroit’s art community.
This May, Detroit will host the 23rd Annual International Conference put on by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare. According to Grace Serra, Art Advisor at Children’s Hospital of Michigan (and Chair of the Local Host Committee for the conference) healing arts that happen in healthcare settings can form the beginning of healing for entire communities. “The conference is going to be a catalyst for those of us that are already working in healthcare settings,” said Serra, commenting on the work environment for healing arts professionals. “Times are tough and we have to be creative.”
“The planning committee is very excited about having Richard Florida as our keynote speaker for this conference,” continued Serra. Florida is the acclaimed author of The Rise of the Creative Class and it was his writing on the subject of the creative class that inspired a statewide “Cool Cities” initiative in Michigan established during the Granholm administration. In his keynote address Florida will be discussing the link between the arts and health. “It is clear that Richard Florida believes in the potential of Detroit, and having him at the conference will hopefully draw attendees from a larger group of people that may understand the opportunity of arts in healthcare in a bigger context.”
Recent research shows 45% of the nation’s hospitals have diverse arts programs which meet the needs of the hospital, the people who use it, and the community it serves. Decades ago, an art program for a hospital would more than likely take the form of a beautification program or an art committee that would solicit significant works of art for a hospital’s public spaces.It was a beautification program that got Irene Walt started at building a collection for Detroit Receiving Hospital.
For the time, the 60’s and 70’s, this was great work for a doctor’s wife. In 2007 Detroit Receiving Hospital created a book called The Healing Work of Art in which many of the works of art from the hospital’s collection are shown, along with an essay by Walt. Over the years, Irene Walt has received numerous awards and recognition for her contribution to the community and art. And at the upcoming Society for the Arts in Healthcare International Conference, Walt will be honored again by her peers for her distinguished career as an Art Advisor for Detroit Receiving Hospital, a position that she has held since 1968. At 88, Irene Walt still fulfills most of her duties at Detroit Receiving, but sometimes calls on her former intern to help her with the walking tours of the hospital’s art collection. Grace Serra says she is honored to do this for her friend and mentor.
Healing arts can be of use in a myriad of settings that may reach beyond the hospital walls. The arts can be put to work in addressing therapeutic solutions related to aging and Alzheimer’s; can be helpful in creating a safe environment for veterans with PTSD or others experiencing a major trauma, to open up about their traumatic experiences; and in quietly simple ways it can help the family and friends of people experiencing a health crisis. With the right resources, initiative and leadership healing arts can reach deep into a community.
Grace Serra describes case after case of the incredible generosity of artists that volunteer their time in health care or even social service settings by identifying a need and putting their talents to work to meet that need. She tells of meeting 22 year-old artist, Veronika Scott, who saw a need to design a coat for homeless individuals. The coat is now being produced by people who are homeless and in shelters. Veronika’s efforts have provided a creative solution to a problem – a better coat for those that are homeless and therapeutic work for people experiencing homelessness. By the way, Veronika is still a student and her focus of study is NOT in clothing design. “For many volunteer artists, it is not about making money, or even art, it is about making a difference,” added Serra. She went on to describe the work of a metal artist, Matthew Lambert, who learned that Children’s Hospital had very few volunteer art activities on the weekend. Through an outreach program called Art Corp Detroit this artist took it upon himself to create a weekend program for young patients and their families. The end result is a ceramic tile wall mural at Children’s Hospital that greets visitors at the 4th floor.
Here is an important distinction to understand about artists in health care: Art Therapy, with a capital “A” is the career path taken by artists that are ready to take on the rigorous clinical training that will make them part of a diagnostic and treatment team in a health care setting. Art therapists will craft activities and programs that match the diagnosis of individual patients and will be able to watch for and identify tangible progress and benefits to the patient receiving the therapy. On the other hand, artists volunteering their time in a health care setting deliver therapeutic art, with a small “a,” and may never know the real benefit of their contribution. Both disciplines have a place in a healing arts program. To learn more about Art Therapy, visit The International Art Therapy Organization or the Art Therapy Alliance. Or better yet, attend the conference being sponsored by The Society for the Arts in Healthcare and Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
The conference organizers suggest people in the following professions attend: Architects; Art, Health and Design Educators; Art, Music, Drama, Literary and Dance Therapists; Artists of all Disciplines; Arts Administrators; Community Service Providers; Human and Social Service Providers; Chaplains and Clergy; Child-life Therapists; Curators; Expressive Arts Therapists; Health and Arts Volunteer Coordinators; Hospital Administrators; Interior Designers; Landscape Architects; Mental Health Providers; Nurses; Occupational Therapists; Physical Therapists; Physicians; and Social Workers. In short – anyone interested in learning more about the role the arts play in health. This one time occasion with this international conference in Detroit this May, represents a rare opportunity for people throughout the state of Michigan interested in healthcare, the arts and a combination of the two professional paths.arts in healthcare, visual art