Art for Recovery, conceived by Ernest Rosenbaum, MD, in l988, began with a seed of an idea and has grown into a nationally acclaimed program.
As director since its inception, I have been blessed to have a hospital administration and medical staff that validates, supports and encourages this program to continue to thrive. This support allows me to personally express my own ideas and creativity and bring them to fruition with our community of patients and medical staff.
As a clinical artist, I enable people coping with life-threatening illnesses to express their creative spirit at a time when so much is changing in their lives. Listening to their stories and helping patients to express their feelings through art experientials gives them an opportunity to say, "this is how it feels for me." Drawing, painting, collage-making, journal-making, and experimenting with found materials and our writing and poetry workshops as well as music allow people to become reacquainted with their own creativity - for many that is something that has long been forgotten. Family members, partners, and friends may participate in this process as well as create their own images relating to a loved one's illness. Art for Recovery has a collection of over 500 pieces of art works - art works that are a history of our time - teaching and telling about anger, pain, fear, hope and the possibility of a future.
Art for Recovery has become an umbrella for many special projects: the award-winning Breast Cancer Quilts Project; the Firefly Project (an exchange of letters and art works between middle and high-school healthy teens and adults coping with cancer and AIDS); our 12 week SPIRIT art making workshops; our 8 week writing & poetry workshops; our ongoing art support groups and participation in studies being held at UCSF Medical Center. Patient artwork and the Breast Cancer Quilts have been exhibited in hospital units, civic and corporate buildings, pharmaceutical companies across the country and renowned medical centers such as the National Institutes of Health.
There is deep concern in our country regarding the state of healthcare. There is deep concern regarding the importance of the healing arts. There is a void in many settings where there is no time to nurture the spirit inside the body that is ill. So often patients have told me they are disconnected from their body, that their doctors are not speaking to them in words they can understand, that their entire sense of being has changed due to illness. And, mostly, what people want is for someone to pay attention to them, to really listen and to be heard. People also want to feel connected to a community that fully understands. Art for Recovery is dedicated to responding to the spirit inside the body that is ill, listening and trying to enable people to express what they are feeling through their own creativity. Art for Recovery teaches that it is the process - the journey that is important.
As healthcare continues to undergo change, the needs of the spirit and the mind and the body must be addressed; it is no longer enough to heal the body alone. As we continue to develop programs like Art for Recovery, and as we continue to explore the possibilities of the mind-body connection, our patients will continue to be our teachers. We must simply pay attention.
Cynthia D. Perlis
Director, Art for Recovery