According to Boehnert, patient response to arts initiatives like the ones advocated in “Building Bridges” has been overwhelmingly positive. As an example, she cites a heart transplant patient who was introduced to the expressive arts during his six-week stay at Hartford Hospital. Before he was discharged, he created his own little gallery in his room. A patient being treated for leukemia also created an impressive body of work, giving pieces away to cheer up fellow patients who were not having good days. Staff, too, says Boehnert, benefit from Art for Healing: “My volunteers also go home better than when they came.”
Since 1991, the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (SAH) has provided support for programs such as the ones at Hartford Hospital and the Mayo Clinic, as well as others like the Artists in Residence program at Florida’s Shands HealthCare hospitals, which offers patients a variety of bedside art making activities. Examples include Art Infusion, a multi-media program for adults on chemotherapy, creative arts for pediatric inpatients, and (like Mayo Scottsdale) an oral history program which seeks to transcribe patients’ personal stories.
“In a lot of places, funding is a struggle,” explains Curry. To help secure funding for arts in healthcare programs, the SAH provides grant opportunities, like the SAH/Johnson & Johnson Partnership to Promote Arts and Healing and SAH Consulting Grants, as well as several awards.
In April, the SAH hosted its 15th international arts in healthcare conference in Chicago, the topic of which was “Vision + Voice—Charting the Course of Arts, Health and Medicine.” The conference urged attendees to “focus (their) vision for the future.”9 Given ever-increasing interest in integrating the arts into healthcare—especially inpatient care—be it by means of the clinical practice of art therapy or by expressive, creative arts programs, the future of such programs seems bright. As Dana Gioia, chair of the NEA, says: “The arts have an extraordinary ability to enhance our lives, to help us heal, and to bring us comfort in times of great stress. We must reconnect the arts with the actual human existence that Americans lead, the journeys we take in life, which lead us through hospitals, to hospices, to the end of life.”10 TH
Roberta Newman is based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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