The Arts in Health: Artists on the Wards at University of Alberta Hospitals
Arts and Health
This report, based on a presentation by Susan Pointe, art advisor for the Friends of University Hospitals, summarizes the arts program at University of Alberta Hospitals (Edmonton). Through the artists-on-the-wards program, artists help adult acute-care patients and their caregivers talk about and create art, including music, visual arts, crafts and writing. The program employs five local professional artists on a part-time basis. These artists train and supervise 30 volunteer artists. The presentation notes that “art at the bedside” has helped bring a sense of calm, peace, joy and humour to settings that can be boring, lonely, anxiety-ridden and painful. Feedback from both the medical staff and patients has been very positive.
In addition to the artists-on-the-wards program, the McMullen Art Gallery helps foster awareness of the arts throughout the hospital. The Friends of University Hospitals are now embarking “on programming arts-based workshops for nursing and medical staff” in order to “share the pleasure, wonder and transcendental quality of writing and art-making with medical and nursing staff”.
The presentation highlights how “organizational support for arts in healthcare is growing”. In 2005, the first-ever Canadian Forum on the Arts and Healthcare was convened (see the Arts Research Monitor, vol. 4, no. 9 for more information). In the same year, Edmonton hosted the International Society for the Arts in Healthcare Conference. A key American-based organization is the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (http://www.thesah.org), a group that promotes the incorporation of the arts in healthcare. The Society’s website contains reports, a 48-page bibliography and a toolbox of arts in healthcare resources.
The presentation notes that a 2003 survey of American hospitals by the National Endowment for the Arts found that:
- 73% of responding hospitals display artwork;
- 55% have arts activities geared to staff;
- 48% present performances in public spaces; and
- 36% have bedside art activities.
A free Canadian newsletter on the connection between the arts, health, training and education is available at http://www.cmclean.com. The December 2006 newsletter can be accessed at http://www.cmclean.com/eNewsletter/06_december_enews.pdf.