Kyle Daniels of Seattle wasn’t expecting to discover his inner artist as a patient at Harborview. But during a recent workshop, he had the opportunity to try sculpture and surprised himself and his sister with a beautiful finished piece.
“I’d never done this before, but it was really fun,” he said. “It was cool to see the clay transformed by my ideas and my hands.”
Harborview’s art program enhances health care by connecting patients and their families with painters, sculptors, actors, poets and musicians. The program works with recreational therapists and clinicians to develop meaningful art-based activities that support patients’ physical, social, cognitive and emotional rehabilitation.
“In the hospital setting, the opportunity to make art encourages creativity, stimulates the imagination and enhances communication, all useful tools as patients recover from illness and injury,” said Missy Armstrong, manager of inpatient rehabilitation and psychiatry and rehabilitation therapies. She is also a member of the Harborview Art Committee. “One-on-one engagement with an artist often delivers surprisingly positive results for patients on their road to recovery.”
The need for artists and arts activities is on the rise at Harborview as caregivers increasingly recognize the unique contribution the arts can make to the healing process.
“We find that art not only provides self-expression, but also helps patients achieve treatment goals, such as improved dexterity, coordination, memory, stress management and leisure skill acquisition,” said Susan Collins, a recreation therapist in rehabilitation therapies.
In 2008, Harborview offered three ceramic workshops to patients from psychiatry, rehabilitation medicine, burns and pediatrics, and six print-making workshops for patients and families throughout the medical center.
Eight exhibitions provided visual stimulation and interest for patients, families and staff. Performances and workshops provided by Seattle’s Freehold Theatre brought the dramatic arts to more than 75 patients. Musicians performed more than 60 times, sharing works from classical opera to traditional bluegrass with patients in their rooms and with families in waiting areas.
“I am thankful that Harborview fed my soul with some of the most important aspects of therapy – art and music,” said Veta Nelson of Fairbanks, Alaska, who suffered a stroke. “Having the opportunity to express my creativity while also practicing my fine motor coordination and challenging my cognition has greatly improved my quality of life. It has given me hope for the future.”
Art in the Park, a summertime event held in Harborview’s View Park located on the hospital’s west side, connects current and former patients and families to create opportunities for peer interaction, education and skill development in a supportive environment, while participants share resources, inspiration, education and recreational experiences.
“Partnerships with community-based artists and organizations help patients experience art as a therapeutic recovery tool during hospitalization and sustain these art activities,” Collins said. “When these patients leave the hospital, they take with them a new life skill. As a result, the doors are already open for continuing in their home community.”
Learn more about the Harborview Art Program
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