October 29, 2018 – In an ongoing collaboration, Englewood Health and The Art School at Old Church hosted a reception on Oct. 17 celebrating The Art of Healing, their annual art exhibition and community partnership. The reception, which was free and open to the community, showcased more than 50 works from 21 local artists who were present to discuss the art lining the halls of Englewood Hospital. More than 150 people attended to see the new artwork debut.
The Art of Healing exhibitions began in 2014 when Linda Senter had the idea to bring art into the hospital as a means of connecting with patients, believing relating to individual experience and emotion is a strong part of the healing process.
“The goal was to enhance the healing environment of the hospital through art, and also to bring in local artists so that they could have a venue for showing their artwork,” Senter said. “I think art has a very positive healing effect. It makes people feel better, it can distract you from whatever the issues or problems are. Hospital employees, patients, and visiting families have all been commenting on how positive they feel when they see the artwork.”
Submissions for the program come from students and teachers who are part of The Art School at Old Church, as well as local artists outside the school. Works are selected and curated by The Art School, and Gallery Manager Emma Abad coordinates layout and placement in the hospital hallways.
Lisa Beth Vettoso, Executive Director of The Art School at Old Church, emphasizes the impact of art on patients, beyond simple aesthetics. “For me it’s really thinking about the experience that a patient is going through from the broader perspective of the whole person—not just about their treatment on a medical level, but also about how they are recovering and coping mentally and emotionally. A lot of the work, both in terms of the exhibit and everything else we do in partnership with the hospital, is really focused on how each person is working through a difficult time so we can bring that little bit of something that resonates with them, lightens their spirits, and maybe shifts their focus.”
Vettoso has been excited to grow The Art of Healing partnership ever since she took on the role of Executive Director at The Art School. The Art of Healing Patient and Family Workshops have been a popular aspect of the program, with two instructors from The Art School at Old Church spending six hours a week at The Wilson Kaplen Infusion Center at Englewood Health. The artists, Jill Cliffer Baratta and Brenna Scheff, varied in their backgrounds and areas of expertise, have a small art room supplied with a variety of materials. Patients and families have the option of coming to the art room, or participating from their individual rooms during treatment. The artists make their rounds offering patients art supplies and guidance in painting, drawing, and jewelry making.
Among the classes offered at The Art School at Old Church are a number specializing in jewelry-making—and one specifically in glass bead-making. After hearing about the school’s collaboration with Englewood Health, the instructor, Stephanie Maddalena, organized donations of handmade beads—a popular material among infusion center patients—to the instructors visiting the hospital.
“It’s a really nice connection,” Vettoso said, “because a big priority of mine since coming on board has been not only about reaching out to the community, but also making sure there’s a nice connection between our students and our teachers and what we’re doing outside of the school. So, it’s wonderful that it was something they came up with on their own, as well as a way to share their hard work.”
Though the program is built around providing support to patients, it also aims to help their loved ones. Those along for the ride often welcome opportunities to stay busy and engaged.
“We know that if somebody is going through an illness it doesn’t just affect them,” Vettoso said, “so that’s another opportunity for us to bring something to the hospital for caretakers who want to participate.”
Future goals for the program include expansion into other departments and patient rooms, and permanent art exhibits to create a community space for patients and visitors.
Englewood Health has also begun rolling out customizable artwork in patient rooms, allowing patients and families to choose from winter, spring, summer, or fall scenes based on current mood and emotion.
Vettoso hopes this month’s Art of Healing reception—phase seven—which included live jazz music and refreshments, will help spread the word that these artistic opportunities exist for those both in and outside the hospital.
For more information on The Art School at Old Church, visit tasoc.org.