In May 2022 I presented at RIA Links Salon in the Cloud about arts in healthcare and the potential for patient-centred, collaborative approaches to art in medical spaces.
Click here to watch the 50-minute talk or read the transcript.
Medical patients seldom have the opportunity to be treated as regular citizens with access to cultural production. Their environments are designed for efficiency of care rather than quality of life.
In these spaces, visual, sonic and other sensory stimuli combine with the cultural background, individual tastes, and healthcare status of system users. At times these increase wellness, other times they increase stress and detract from overall quality of care.
Some environmental features are inherent to the delivery of care and thus cannot be controlled (i.e. sounds of machines, sanitary infrastructure etc). But what can we control and improve? And how do we determine what might make things better or worse? Furthermore, is there a way to include those most impacted by these decisions in the conversation? People like staff (both medical and support staff), families, and especially the patients who wield the least amount of power in these worlds?
Over the past 10 years I have toggled between the arts and healthcare worlds. I worked as a hospital porter during my undergraduate degree in psychology and music. I went on to work in the field of mental health, in crisis support and then outpatient practical support work. While working in mental health I was also developing as an interdisciplinary, professional artist– teaching music, performing, creating visual artwork, and initiating collaborative projects. I spent time in arts outreach, assisting an art therapist at the MS and Parkinson’s Societies of Alberta, and spearheaded music engagement at the Huntington Disease Society’s retreat at camp He Ho Ha. Many of my loved ones are medical professionals, and I have spent time as a family member of someone in care, as well as been a patient myself.
In sum, I have had my eye on the topic of arts-in-medicine for much of my life, through lived experience, academic study, mentoring, and close observation.
In the fall of 2020 I connected with artist-activist cj fleury in response to her call for an emerging, interdisciplinary-social-practice artist to help build an innovative and inclusive approach to curation. cj was the inaugural Artist-in-Residence (AiR) at Bruyère, a three-site academic healthcare organization providing a range of services focused on aging and rehabilitation, including long-term care, complex continuing care, palliative care, (all ages) stroke rehabilitation and geriatric rehabilitation. Many patients and residents have complex care needs, usually from a combination of medical conditions, limited social supports, and functional deficits. In her two years designing the new AiR program, most of fleury’s work was at Saint Vincent Hospital, Ottawa’s only complex-care facility. Specifically, cj’s call was to address these medicalized spaces as vessels for quality art, active imagination and user-agency.
Since then I have been researching, connecting, and reflecting on arts-in-healthcare and social-practice approaches to arts engagement under the mentorship of cj fleury, and in partnership with Radical Connections. This has built a foundation of understanding on the topics, past case studies (both positive and negative), and the ethical considerations of working as an artist in community (and especially, with vulnerable populations). Arts can be powerfully healing in environments where healing is most needed, and exciting developments are on the horizon across Canada. I look forward to continuing this work in practice starting this summer through arts-based research and socially engaged curating at Saint Vincent hospital.
Co-Curation at Saint Vincent Hospital, Ottawa Canada
Coming summer 2022.
Arts-in-healthcare: Therapeutic Approaches vs AAGM
- Radical Connections
- RIA Links_Artists for Systems Change
- Arts Network Ottawa
- Friends of University Hospitals
- Bruyère Academic Medical Organization
- The City of Ottawa
- Ottawa Arts Mentorship Program
- Bruyere Research Institute