The two-day seminar provided an overview of the Arts for Healing Program at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.
The Texas Tech University Department of English hosted the Arts in Medicine seminar for Texas Tech faculty and students on Jan. 23 and 24. The two-day seminar, led by the Yale-New Haven team, trained interested artist volunteers to work at Covenant Women and Children's Hospital this spring.
Jacqueline Kolosov, a professor in the English department at Texas Tech, said she believes this seminar will build upon Texas Tech's commitment to engage the community and sharing talents to improve the lives of those both within and beyond the university.
“The primary goal was to inspire the artist volunteers and to give them tools and a base that they can build on as they begin their work at Covenant,” Kolosov said. “A secondary goal was to strengthen the volunteers' sense of solidarity and community. A third goal was to make the Yale-New Haven team feel welcome and to feel as if they have received a gift in coming here — making such a long trip and such an intensive time commitment.”
Janice Baker, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, directs the Child Life Program that brings art and writing to children in the hospital. Her colleagues include the writer-in-residence, Aaron Jafferis, an accomplished poet who works intensively with youth, and Laki Vazakas, the digital storyteller.
The seminar covered development of the program, artist training and creative content for the writing and video programs, illustrated by patient work. A second day, proposed for artists and others interested in the creative process, provided a hands-on learning experience.
“Attendees saw several videos — examples of digital storytelling basically,” Kolosov said. “These were narrated by the patients and feature the patients in the film. Their artwork, music or other creative work also played a role. Fundamentally, the video is a therapeutic and expressive tool for the patient to share his or her experience.”
Kolosov said she believes the videos can also be an educational tool to caregivers and hospital staff that educates them on the patient's experience.
“In some cases, as in the case of sickle cell anemia, Yale cares extensively for these patients,” Kolosov said. “The videos raise awareness about the disease which is under-valued or under-represented given that the majority of those suffering from the disease are African-American or part of the African descent. In other words, this disease does not receive the dollars that other diseases do.”
Joe Dornich, a doctoral student in creative writing, is using research hours to work at Covenant, Kolosov said. Other students are integrating the volunteer work into their majors/minors in psychology, English, art history and related fields. Two art students are working with Robin Germany in independent studies.
Kolosov said she feels the program is building a core group of artist volunteers for the future.
“We need to give them the tools and the enthusiasm to work with patients at Covenant, many of whom will be in oncology or in the high risk pregnancy ward,” Kolosov said. “Some of these women are aware that the child they are carrying may not survive beyond birth. The artist volunteers therefore need resilience and compassion and a certain amount of distance and perspective, and that was part of the seminar.”