Jill Henderson dancing at Shands Hospital, University of Florida, Gainesville.
This advice is for someone who wants to work with patients making art, someone who wants to start out in this work. You may be someone who is graduating in art, or in psychology, or in art with a minor in psychology, or you may be a person who has healed themselves iwth art . Or you may be someone who is an artist who wants to do this kind of work. Every day we get EMAIL from someone like this who knows they are attracted to this work, knows that all they have done has somehow been towards this, and wants to know what to do.
A person who wants to do this work needs to see themselves as a pioneer. They need to begin to see art and healing as their work, and possibly as their life’s journey. Our advice to you is to come from the place within you that is filled with the most passion and the most energy. From this place, put the words from within you together, of what you want to do.. See yourself working in an environment. Go into an undefined, unknown frontier. Know that you are not alone even though what you are doing is might be different from what others are doing around you.
Then you need to approach caregivers. What you need to do is make contact with caregivers in any setting and get permission. What you need to acquire is experience . You need to get experience so you can realize what you want to do and what you will be doing. Go into the situation you want to be in, you will formulate your role through the experiences you are having. In the beginning, you need to do this on your own. It is as important as your education was. This is real, it embodies real experience with individuals. You can go to a local hospital and be a volunteer, you can go meet individuals who are working in clinical settings and ask them if you can create a partnership with them and expand with it as you are doing it. You use this individual for guidance, as as a teacher and as a ally. You begin to build bridges of how you can bring your art into new and meaningful settings. See what is happening around you and come into the setting to do it. The only way you can do it is based on the feedback your receive.
In the beginning, Mary Lane, at AIM University of Florida, did staff workshops with healthcare providers in the hospital. The nurses said “you are speaking a different language”, they didn’t see themselves as artists. So she learned that simple fact that they did not see themselves as artists. The feedback was valuable, it helped her artists present themselves. Be open to information, so you can make the change. Nothing is more important than working with individuals and making a difference in their lives, and in their care.
Knowing what you are doing is real, it makes a difference. It moves you to a place of confidence and knowing. You will succeed because the systems want to change. The softer interventions will be embraced. The time is now. The way a lot of programs got started was because of desire of patients who wanted this. The nurses saw the people enjoy this, they saw the patients brought in and being engaged. They saw that difficult patients were changed. The community at large was involved, the media becomes involved. The community as a whole tells your story in the media and it grows. The stories are shared. Public relations were important to highlight the programs. The first positive publicity many hospitals ever get is that they have art in medicine which shows they have a heart and a innovative way of caring and that they care for their patients.
Going into existing programs, and taking courses in art therapy, or expressive arts therapy, are other ways to get into this work. The choice of art therapy as a licensed discipline or expressive art therapy is up to you. They are different from art and healing and the path in life is different. In art and healing we work in a model where everyone is their own healer, where people engage in their own creative process as primary healing. This is based on a personal spiritual journey. For someone to do this work they need to pioneer it in our culture. We are calling artists forth to go into hospitals, businesses, educational systems. We are calling artists to stand up and speak and teach the culture about a more creative way of being.
This is about the re-enchantment of art in our culture. It is about honoring the artist within us all to enhance whatever we are doing. We propose that the easiest avenue is to go into the traditional roles in our culture and be an artist within it. Be a nurse and an artist. Be a doctor and a artist . It is not about redefining the world, remaking the wood paths that exist in our culture. The wood paths have lost the creativity they once may have had. We are saying follow the same wood path, and then bring in light, joy, and creativity. This will change the wood paths. By bringing in the art, there will be less loneliness and isolation in our own world. By becoming an artist healer you start with healing and we will all go on from there. This is just the beginning. Do it.