Meet the Art for Recovery Team
Amy Van Cleve
Art for Recovery Program Manager
I believe ART is the universal language of the soul. It is my craft, as well my passion and privilege to contribute what I can to the UCSF Art for Recovery program. As a lifelong student of the arts and psychology, the greatest education that I have ever received is from my patients. In Art for Recovery, our patients are our teachers.
As a child of an artist and an artisan, I literally grew up in between an art studio and a workshop. My training has given me the privilege of working in the mural industry with some of the world’s best muralists, however, the true meaning and value of art was never made clearer to me than the first day I sat with cancer patients receiving infusions. To bear witness to the lives and stories of people facing illness and mortality was humbling in the best sense. To offer my language of art, to give voice to their stories, is an honor.
My mission at Art for Recovery is to create a safe and welcoming space for patients’ voices to be heard, without judgment, in the company of others who have been in their shoes. My goal is to curate these stories throughout the UCSF Medical Center and beyond, giving voice to the voiceless, community to the isolated, and a measure of solace to our patients.
"Life is 70% fantasy and 30% reality, the arts are that 70% that helps us survive the 30%." -- AFR patient
“Music can touch and comfort the deep part of the self.”
Playing harp with the non-profit agency, Healing Muses, afforded Patrice Haan her first contact with Cindy Perlis and Art for Recovery in 2004. Since then her partnership with Art for Recovery has included projects with the Bone Marrow transplant wards and the Hem-Oncology Clinic at Parnassus, supporting cancer patients through Symptom Management Services clinics at Mt. Zion and Mission Bay, and playing harp for meditation during the annual Days of Remembering. Currently, every Tuesday she offers a weekly hour of Musical Meditation: An Oasis for Self-healing open to all patients and staff. She collaborates with Amy Van Cleve, the Program Director of AFR, in a weekly program called The Art of Musical Meditation. Designed for cancer patients, this space invites self-care and wellness through explorations of writing and art with music.
Musician Song Writer
Originally from Montana, Jim first performed in the San Francisco Bay Area with the Pickle Family Circus as an apprentice clown and roustabout, appearing in clown and club juggling routines. Jim has since presented his own clown show at fairs and festivals up and down the west coast from Lompoc to Puyallup. Outside the ring, Jim has pursued a variety of interests: jazz piano, accordion, movement and flamenco dance.
In the tradition of the minstrels and troubadours of old, Jim has been sharing his love of music and the performing arts with healthcare communities throughout Northern California, including the Art for Recovery program, for many years. Just as a vase of flowers can transform a room through beauty, a ‘bouquet’ of music and stories can create community, balancing the fear and stress of illness with wholeness.
Mary Watson was attracted to learning how to play the harp about 12 years ago when a friend told her that playing harp helped her heal a chronic physical condition of many years. Mary decided to complete CPMC’s Healing Harp Certificate when she did a tour of a hospital with the woman running the program. One of the nurses saw this woman and her harp and said, “Now I can breathe again.”
She played for patients there at CPMC for a year and then spent two years playing at S. F. General, before she started at UCSF Art for Recovery in 2015. She loves playing for patients, relatives, friends and staff. She finds each situation to be so very unique - poignant, uplifting, sad, inspiring. She is learning so much from these people and treasures this work.
Ned Buskirk has worked with UCSF's Art for Recovery creative writing with cancer patients since 2018. His work is creatively engaging with healing through writing - at the hospital bedside, creative writing with cancer patients, and in groups, facilitating Healing with Writing Workshops. The Founder and CEO of his own nonprofit, with a MA in English Literature, he has over 5 years experience working with hospice patients, an active hospice program sending musicians to patients' bedsides, monthly sell-out live events facilitating creatively conscious mortality space for community, and enlivening open mics for men inside the prison system. He believes that our community deserves ongoing and consistent opportunities to creatively and vulnerably show up for one another. To face the hardest parts of being mortal, we need to come together, supporting and inspiring one another to heal, grow and claim our own uniquely individual creative aliveness.
Laurie Wagner has been teaching Wild Writing for 20 years. It's an incredibly loose and free way to tell our stories and to uncover the themes we want to write about.
For 15 minutes we write as fast as we can, pen never leaving the page. By writing so quickly we are able to push past our inner critic and our ego and all the ways we stay trapped in looking good. This gives us a chance to move into a less self-conscious, loose groove where, if we’re lucky we may stumble into the fertile imagination that lingers within us, conjuring up stories and memories that are waiting to be written.
What I love about working with the patients at UCSF is that they are all moving through some serious challenges in their lives, and Wild Writing invites them to courageously tell those stories on paper - something they might not do with friends or family - but can do with kindred spirits. When we write so intimately together, there is community healing for everyone. No one is alone.
Donna Lau began with Art for Recovery as a volunteer in 2018, before becoming a part-time administrative assistant to the Director. As a cancer survivor, she’s committed to paying it forward by assisting others living with cancer.
Her role is to support the Art for Recovery staff in maintaining art program operations, including art studio maintenance, inventory management, workshop materials preparation, online workshop enrollment, email management, and Firefly Project administration.
After a 35-year business leadership career, Donna’s goal in retirement is to help cancer patients through their journey by supporting patient-facing operations in any capacity. She also volunteers at the UCSF Patient and Family Cancer Support Center. As a “Welcome and Support” ambassador, Donna meets individually with new cancer patients (and families) to familiarize them with UCSF’s Cancer Support Center resources and helps them navigate through their road to healing and recovery through education. Her art of “heart” photography inspires and reminds others that we’re all surrounded by love at all times.