“There will be a lot of amazing art and amazing writing,” says Curry. But the legal technicalities involved in publishing or mounting an exhibition of art work, including the necessity of having patients give permission and sign release forms, may simply be too daunting for those involved. Curry does not, however, rule out an exhibit or a book of patient work in the future.
In conjunction with Arizona State University, the Mayo Clinic’s Scottsdale center has also introduced several arts programs, including music at the bedside in Palliative Care, and a bedside creative writing program. During sessions that last about 45 minutes and center around the one-on-one interaction between the artist and the patient, patients narrate their personal stories, from which participating writers generate original works on hand-made paper. The finished pieces are then returned to the patient-narrators. These works have proved extremely meaningful not only to the people whose stories they tell, but to the storytellers’ families as well.
Based on its own successful programs, which include bedside art making, the Integrative Medicine department at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut has published an on-line Program Development Manual, “Building Bridges,” which provides “a blueprint for spanning the not-yet-connected terrain of Conventional Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Medicine,”6 Indeed, in addition to sections dealing such practices as massage therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, and Tai Chi, as well as guided imagery, “a mind-body intervention that focuses the imagination and the five senses to create soothing and relaxing images,”7 “Building Bridges” includes a chapter on “Creating an Art for Healing Program,” written by Diana S. Boehnert, artist-in-residence and coordinator of the Art for Healing Program.
According to Boehnert, art making as part of a larger Integrative Medicine program “creates a better quality of life for people with chronic illness.” Hartford Hospital’s program, which she administers, employs both clinically trained art therapy interns and volunteers, whose work follows the expressive bedside art making model. As such, the Art for Healing section of “Building Bridges” deals extensively with the training and preparation of artists. According to the manual, candidates without previous experience working in a hospital setting benefit from partnering with a clinical staff member as part of the training process. In addition to the requisite “orientation to patient care area with review of patient care environment, equipment, safety issues, and the needs of the specific patent population,” “Building Bridges” suggests that trainees also engage in “mock art sessions with a preceptor or mentor.”8 While it is also recommended that candidates have some background in the expressive arts, formal art training is not an absolute requirement. In reality, says Boehnert, “It doesn’t matter how much [formal art] training they have, the patient does the work.”
Unlike the Mayo Clinic’s pilot study, Hartford Hospital’s program is project oriented. “The project is the impetus that gets the patient going,” says Boehnert. “Adults aren’t willing to play without a purpose. They just want a little direction.”
For the most part, individual projects are small. They range from mandalas (circular designs generally associated with Buddhist and Hindu practice) to cards for family members. “Intuition,” explains Boehnert, “tells the volunteers what will work best with a patient.”
Hartford Hospital’s Arts for Healing is not limited to patients in a single department. Boehnert, whose previous experience with arts in healthcare included plaster cast mask-making with survivors of domestic violence, began working with rehab patients and extended the program to include dialysis patients. It’s now available in various departments throughout the hospital. Some of the work created by Arts for Healing participants in the Art for Healing program is on display in a small gallery in the hospital.