Our aim is to transform the healing journey of patients and those who care for them through art, imagination and play.
When the patient is a child or youth, they are also missing the important schedule of school, their friendships, and the routine of their daily life. They find themselves in a structured and sterilized environment in which they have little opportunity for decision making.
When they are transitioning out of the supportive environment of a hospital, they experience a reduced sense of self-worth, isolation, feelings of disconnectedness with their community. Research has shown that a hands-on arts activity, run by professional artists, can assist them in remembering these vital elements in their lives and help to create a sense of agency in those with chronic disabilities.
Visual art is a powerful and expressive communication tool and involvement in art improves mood, reduces depression, isolation and anxiety, and deepens connections with other people while offering the opportunity to make choices. Participating in group arts-based activities, contributes to well-being and ‘understanding through doing’.
Our participatory projects give a creative voice to children and teens in hospitals and community settings. Each project is tailored to meet the needs of the child or youth and is adapted to meet any physical restrictions they may have. We use all forms of visual art, theatre, dance, as well as co-create community ceremonies.
Puppetry in Endocrine
Puppets offer opportunity to help young patients understand their diagnosis, and provides them a creative opportunity and to say things, through the puppet, that they are uncomfortable saying directly.
Bringing art to the bedside
The tedium of a hospital stay can be discouraging and increase the sense of helplessness. Bringing arts activities directly to the patients' bedside offers a distraction and an opportunity to work to their best abilities, reminding them of their lives beyond the walls of the hospital.
Participatory Arts for Children
Participatory arts programs provide children and teens in hospitals and healthcare settings an opportunity to have a creative voice while staying in hospitals and healthcare settings.
While hospitalized, patients can feel isolated, and in children and teens this can be even more intense. By offering them a shared arts experience, and the opportunity to make decisions, they can begin to feel more hopeful.
Puppets on Endocrine
Programs can be created in any number of spaces. We undertook this project in a hallway and empty treatment room for children and teens newly diagnosed with diabetes who were awaiting visits to doctors, dieticians, and social workers. The projects were created between appointments and lowered the anxiety of the families and patients.
For children and youth with disabilities, feelings of isolation and low self worth can be prevalent. Finding ways to communicate this through movement and dance can be helpful.
Youth and Mental Health
Puppets and Diabetes
Helene Hugel of Helium works alongside children who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes. The puppets created served to open communications with family and staff and was a distraction while the children waited for their next appointment.
Adult Arts Alongside
As evidenced in clinical research studies internationally, the use of arts within a healthcare setting or community can assist in healing the spirit and mind of an ill patient, a person suffering from violence or trauma, or someone living under prolonged stress.
When a patient is hospitalized for a period of time can become their illness, becoming institutionalized, and find it a struggle to recall their world outside the ordered austere ward. Recent medical research, however offers some light to this darkness. Clinical research, carried out at several hospitals internationally, provides evidence that there are benefits to integrating the arts within a medical environment.
For instance, renal dialysis patients undergoing treatment suffer from boredom and often focus on the physically invasive process of dialysis. Sitting or lying for a period of two to four hours, two to three times a week, can exacerbate these feelings of illness. Distraction from the tedium of the treatment and interaction with an artist increases the patients sense of well being and engages them in an art process that culminates in works of art that become a part of the cultural heritage of the community. Their treatment time is transformed into an art class.
ARTery - on the move
A mobile art trolley is a great way of moving through the units and engaging with patients both at the bedside and in more common areas. Offering a range of art materials allows patients to have choice and make decisions - a rare opportunity in an acute hospital setting.
As some patients are not able to use their own hands, we bring in artists to work alongside a patient at the bedside. The artist becomes the hand of the patient, taking specific direction on the creation of an artwork. This co-creation is important to reducing isolation and increasing the patient's sense of self worth.
Group Programming in Acute Hospitals
Creating a failure free environment is vital when working with hospitalized patients. Group programs on the unit offer an opportunity for engagement and successes.
Connecting with patients on a personal level allows them to challenge their own abilities and be something other than their illness. This patient worked for 6 weeks during his dialysis to create a portrait - could it be Donald Trump?
Those living in care are often isolated. Though our creation of retirement communities, we may have inadvertently created geriatric silos. However, through intergenerational arts-infused programming we can transform these silos into animated and interactive environments that inspire creativity.
Dr. Gene Cohen said that "even as memory fades, imagination continues to be robust", and it is with this in mind that we approach all our programs.
Our programs engage seniors in extended care or retirement communities, by developing, when appropriate, significant relationships with youth attending local schools. This intergenerational community also increases the youths' understanding of aging and the history of their community.
When running intergenerational programs individuals can be nervous and unsure how to begin conversations with one another. Building rapport and trust takes time and a shared arts experience can do a lot to break down generational boundaries.
RIBBONS OF LIFE
Ribbons of Life (1999) is an award winning project that sought to address social isolation, improve intergenerational communication, and build sustainable partnerships in the community. Begun in late 1999 and completed in 2000, this was the first collaboration between Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby School District, four independent artists and the Cascade Residence at Burnaby Hospital.
This collaboration was sustainable as time was taken to develop a strong foundation. The residents were actively involved and created long term relationships with the school children, youth and artists.
Following on the success of this intergenerational initiative, Cascade Residence continued its partnership with Burnaby Art Gallery through Empty Bowls, and Stream of Dreams. A mosaic tile project was in development when the residence closed.
Fifteen years later, the work remains installed in the halls of the host hospital, reminding visitors and staff of the partnership with the schools and Burnaby Art Gallery.
This is a mono-print created by a senior and student. The works reflect the stories shared by the older person and were framed and displayed in the hallways of the seniors' residence.
Dementia and Alzheimer's Patients
Towards the end of life, art and creativity offer a path to open up the windows to people's emotional interiors. In fact, Miller and Hou (2004) observe that focusing on the artistic strengths of patients with progressive aphasia caused by degenerative dementias, has a positive therapeutic value as it encourages patients to pursue an activity in which they have a potential and can improve.Furthermore, research has shown (Kinney and Rentz, 2005) that persons in the early and middle stages of Alzeimer's disease who took part in a visual art activity that encouraged self-expression, demonstrated significantly more interest, sustained attention, pleasure and increased self-esteem.
Anne Basting wrote "where rational language and factual memory have failed people with dementia, the arts offer an avenue for communication and connection with caregivers, loved ones, and the greater world".
To go further, when designing spaces for residents suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, there are special considerations. It is vital to create a calm environment free of excess noise and stressors; to monitor personal comfort; and to simplify tasks and routines.
We offer a holistic approach to care for this specialized population with programming that enhances their hospital stay, and through environmental design to lessen their stress. To achieve this, we work with designers and share our knowledge of current evidence based design, to create spaces and programmes that encourage patient compliance, a more relaxed environment and staff.
Arts programs for Dementia patients
Effective therapeutic benefits – patients participating in an art program experience clinically significant benefits; showing increased calmness, sociability, and self-esteem. It has been shown that patients who have severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia are able to engage sustained attention in painting for over an hour, and engage in social conversations. The art provided one patient a way to express herself, which helped others to see her strength and beauty.
No side effects and harm – while antipsychotics and physical restraints give modest or no effects and can cause harm in many patients with dementia, art programs clearly can provide therapeutic effects with no adverse side effects. Patients are more likely to fall after antipsychotics, but they are more alert and engaged after the art program.
Creative expressionhelps improving health and well-being – it was obvious that the art program filled the room with human warmth and positive connection. Some patients just love to come in to enjoy the social atmosphere. Communication was the key in the art program.
Saoirse is the Irish and Scottish name meaning freedom, and this unit was transformed through evidence-based design. Shop fronts from the nearby town were recreated along the hallways between the rooms to evoke memories for patients with dementia diseases. Carol McCann headed up the environmental transformations.
This space was used to allow residents an opportunity to continue the routines that they would have had at home prior to their Alzheimers' diagnosis. Nursing staff were trained in new ways of caring, risk management and infection control lowered their protocols to enable women to use a needle and thread, boil water to make tea, and wash dishes.
An exterior mural was commissioned to reflect the surrounding countryside as the edition of a grey concrete wall gave the impression of a grey day resulting in residents' feelings of isolation
This had been a eight bed space. The view from the french doors had been a grey wall due to building expansion. The residents stopped spending time in this room as they said the day was grey - a result of the concrete. We commissioned a mural to shift the residents' perception of the space resulting in the room being used once more.
Creating a space outdoors offers an opportunity to heal community and serve as treatment settings for patient therapies. These healing gardens bring together inpatients, outpatients, families, friends and staff: they can be places for quiet reflection, offer opportunities for interaction, gardening and play, or respite from hospital settings.
Our work is informed by international experience and we offer support in developing the healing garden that is appropriate for your patient population. We consider and advise on design elements, opportunities for programming, budgeting concerns, as well as maintenance and safety issues.
Patients, families and staff can be involved in a collaboration that results in a work of art that can be enjoyed through touch, sight and by listening to the music created by the wind moving through the tree.
This garden is used for programming, quiet walks and staff respite, and is set beside a paediatric rehabilitation hospital in Toronto. Each summer, for over twenty-five years, youth and children of all abilities from the surrounding community and those who are not too medically fragile to leave their hospital bed, participate in a self-directed art, garden and play program. On offer is woodworking, music, ceramics, puppet-making, gardening, movement and sculpture . . and more.
Raised beds are ideal for patients who are not able to bend over to garden. Foods grown can be harvested and used by the patients, families and staff.
This healing space was used by patients by quiet reflection. We incorporated some historical artefacts of moon and sun and designed the garden around them. Sun is set against a trough that fills with rainwater and waters the garden flowers and plants.
Wayfinding and Environmental Design
We work with you to co-create spaces that encourage and strengthen the hospital experience. We collaborate with clinicians, hospital board members, donors, patients and caregivers to ensure the patient experience is excellent while supporting the clinical team to address medical needs.
We offer design blueprints to improve a particular patient population such as consulting on the commissioning of public art; recommending art programs that will enliven those with mental health illnesses or dementia diseases. We are committed to understanding your organization as thoroughly as possible and to express your values and practices in all we do.
Let us help you find the right design solution for your hospital.
Pediatric Emergency Treatment Room
This mural is the focal point for this pediatric emergency room. With the collaboration of the clinical team, we commissioned an artist to create a mural that would distract the young patient from their treatments - injections, blood taking, and the anxiety that increases with the wait. The mural also helped the parents to find their child's treatment room as there a unique theme and showcased mural behind each curtain.
Neurology waiting room
This space offered natural light but no outdoor scene. Research shows that the presence of a mural depicting a natural environment can be calming for families and patients.
Dementia Care Unit
This was a long hall offering no directional information. For the patients, this recreation of the village in which they had lived, served as a calming and somewhat familiar environment.
Each healthcare setting has unique patients with needs. Change the environment, and they benefit - as do the staff and families.
Making use of history in wayfinding
This hallway ran a third of a mile throughout the hospital. Each alcove, of which there were sixteen were identical and placed in pairs directly opposite each other. This caused confusion for visitors and patients. Along one wall, we intermittently placed images from the hospital's historical photographs. Along the other wall, we placed artwork. This helped with wayfinding, offered opportunities to engage with one another, and rest stations.
Staff Engagement and Education
Arts participation for healthcare professionals sets out to give participants the chance to explore and develop art making with the aim of building confidence and expertise to work on and support arts projects within the healthcare settings.
Participants will experiment with a wide range of materials and ways of working to produce creative works while thinking about the particular needs of care groups. The course content will follow the art making process, from gathering first ideas through to how best to exhibit work.
Having a moment to engage with a patient in a non-medical level can build trust, rapport and connections. In this outpatient endocrine unit the patients and the staff communicated using puppets that they had created during workshops. The nurse was able to remind the patient about her next appointment and they agreed that the puppets would meet again - what a great incentive for the patient to happily return!
Project Training for Staff
During this project, we ensured that staff were trained to continue the program after we had left. The students were from the neighbouring schools and the staff took part in the arts-infused program alongside the residents and students. Some staff said they had come to know the residents as a result and their interactions with them changed significantly
Arts-infused programs enable clinical staff and patients to engage with one another in a share experience: reminding the patient that they are more than their diagnosis.
Where people survive displacement, marginalization, conflict, war or a natural disaster it is important for them to re/create community with one another. Using J.P Lederach's notion of peace being like a web of connections, we design arts-infused community healing projects that bring processes, ritual and celebrations to begin conversations.
We work with artists throughout the world and our work is cultural sensitive and transformative at a community level.
Contact us for details.
This piece was created during a workshop I ran in the Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. The twenty Tamil women who participated in the workshop had all been witness to and survived the civil war and the tsunami. The town in which they lived had lost 5,000 of the 25,000 people to the wave. There were no babies as they had also been swept out to sea. This image was used to raise funds to begin a sewing cooperative so the women could support their families as many of the men had died and they had to relocate away from the ocean.
Healing at the Seaside
Early in 2005 I travelled to Sri Lanka with a group of Irish nurses to work behind Tamil Tiger lines, with survivors of the tsunami. It was felt by the local people, who were mostly fisher folk, that they had been betrayed by "Mother Ocean". This music program served to reconnect them - many of whom had lost family members, neighbours and friends to the waves - to the source of their livelihood.
Participation in a arts programs can serve as a tool to begin to heal a community after a natural disaster or conflict as the people become engaged in a collective and fun experience.
The schools had been destroyed by the tsunami and, in an attempt be remind survivors of their lives beyond their loss, we ran a series of visual art programs that led to rituals and processions that served to heal the community. The program also acted as a way to identify those youth in greatest distress so the local support team could offer them much needed counsel.
These women had all been displaced by the Kony insurgency in the North of Uganda. They were relocated just outside of Kampala on the site of a prison. We worked together to discuss their ways of making peace and re-storying their personal narratives.
In 2013 the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, I ran arts-infused workshops. During the day pictured here eight women from eight tribes - all displaced victims of violence - worked together with an aim to build peace within their new communities. Through the use of visual art, community mapping and sharing their personal stories of their experience of post-election violence, they found connections with one another and went on to promote peace in the tribal communities and families.
Children who survive trauma and displacement need to be reminded of fun, and a shared art experience is one way to do that. This image illustrates a portion of the 150 children with whom I worked during a one day workshop in a refugee camp in the northern tip of the Jaffna peninsula, Sri Lanka
Working with traumatized people in the field, or in a hospital alongside patients is a very different experience than working in an art studio. Artists working in this field for the first time, need to adjust their practice to reflect the needs of the individuals and institutions with whom they are working. The artist role is more like that of a facilitator who guides and encourages the patient to find their own creative process: and engages with each person beyond their illness.
Artists who work with us undergo training to prepare them for being a guest on the medical unit or to work with survivors of gender-based violence.
If you are an artist who would like to learn how to work internationally with marginalized groups, in the medical environment, or if you are a decision maker within a hospital or retirement community who wants those who use art processes with your patients, please contact us.
We offer training on site or remotely for individuals or groups. We are happy to develop an education tool that meets your unique needs.