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UCLA Medical School’s ‘guest artist’ is helping to teach doctors about disease

From the Huffington Post Article by Priscilla Frank Ted Meyer is the guest artist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. If you weren't aware that medical schools had guest artists, you're not alone. But this initiative is very real, aiming to teach doctors about illness through the practice of art. Yes, Meyer's work brings artists together to help educate future physicians and epidemiologists on the more human aspects of disease. "The artists use their work to tell a story," Los Angeles-based Meyer told The Huffington Post. "It helps the doctors look at people as more than something to cure." [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="570"]Daphne Hill, Avian Flu Daphne Hill, Avian Flu: "Daphne does work about germs and her fears of them sickening herself and her children. Her talk was interesting as she explained how her fears developed and how doctors might talk with someone like her who has already been checking the Internet and read the possible worst case scenarios."[/caption] Meyer began his stay at the medical school in 2010, though the foundation of his ongoing project began much earlier -- in fact, his inspiration dates back to his birth. "I was born with a very rare genetic condition," said Meyer, who grew up with Gaucher’s disease, a disorder in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and organs. "There was no treatment for it. Starting at about age 6 I was in and out of the hospital all the time. I grew up thinking maybe I'd make it to thirty, maybe not." Among other things, manifestations of the illness include bruising, fatigue, anemia and skeletal disorders. During his time in the hospital, Meyer turned to art as a means of expression, release and inner healing. Creating imagery filled with skeletal bodies contorted in pain, Meyer's resulting series was titled "Structural Abnormalities." He often made use of the materials around him, incorporating bandages and IVs into his images, all revolving around the idea of, in Meyer's words, "being in a body that didn't work particularly well." [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="570"]Damienne Merlina, Bandaid Damienne Merlina, Bandaid[/caption] And then, something unexpected happened. Meyer's health began to improve. "I really hit a point where, thanks to Western technology, there was a new treatment. Almost all of my symptoms disappeared," he said. "I had my hip replaced so I could walk normally." Although undoubtedly a miracle in terms of his life and wellbeing, the sudden shift left Meyer directionless as an artist. After a period of uncertainty, Meyer resolved to shift his artistic perspective entirely. While still focused on the body, his work shifted from its "singular and isolated" mode to one more "happy and sexual." More importantly, instead of sharing his own story, he began inviting others to share theirs. For this series, which Meyer dubbed "Scarred for Life," he applies block-print ink to human scars and the skin surrounding them. He then proceeds to press paper to skin, and subsequently accents the images with paint and pencil, turning physical remnants of suffering into inimitable splashes of color and line. Although the project center around scars, the art is less about suffering and more about survival. "I make these prints that look like Rothkos -- color field prints," he said. "I don't want [to emphasize] the shock value of, 'Oh, look how disfigured they look.' For me, it's a story more like mine: let's make the best out of this that we can from this point forward." [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="900"]Ted Meyer, Breast Cancer-Mastectomy Ted Meyer, Breast Cancer-Mastectomy[/caption] Meyer explained the intense reactions he received in response to the works, which toured everywhere from the United Nations to the Pasadena Armory; reactions of an intensity he never experienced when painting. "People would come look at my work and just sort of break down crying," he said. "Others came up to me and said, 'Look at my scar, let me tell you about my scar.'" He was receiving emails twice a week from people all around the world, all wanting to share their personal scar story. This gave Meyer an idea. With so many people grappling with illness and using art as an outlet, perhaps their creative efforts could serve as a means of unorthodox education as well. "It became very apparent to me that all these people who do work about their illnesses, really have a lot to say," Meyer said. "Maybe they could teach something to medical professionals. There has been art therapy designed to help patients, but I thought maybe there is something to teach the doctors here. Perhaps they can look at patients' artworks and see something beyond the clinical. It's not just 'oh, they have multiple sclerosis' or 'it's a broken neck.' In a way, it's like art therapy for doctors." As a result, for the past five years, Meyer has served as a guest artist at the UCLA's medical school, a position he carved out and created for himself, curating artist talks and exhibitions that serve to educate the medical staff. In particular, Meyer's programming is designed for first and second year medical students, most of whom have not yet had an opportunity to work with patients in person. To provide future doctors with more tangible understanding of living with certain afflictions, artists speak about their condition, their artworks, and the relationship between the two. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="570"]Susan Trachman, Order #2 Susan Trachman, Order #2 Susan has MS and does work about organization and control as she has less control over her body. He media is all the old medical supplies used in her treatment[/caption] Mainly, his position entails recruiting and curating a network of artists exploring issues of illness and identity, inviting them to show their work and tell their stories. The conditions represented are as diverse as the artistic media explored. "There is a woman Susan who has multiple sclerosis," Meyer said, "and for 25 years she's been keeping all the bottles she's used -- all the saline and everything -- she takes them and she organizes them in patterns. She explained to the medical students that when you have MS you have absolutely no control over your body. You can't predict your own movements. But by organizing these bottles, she had found one area she could control." Meyer's program caters to doctors who, though familiar with all the technicalities of medical proceedings, aren't as well versed in the human aspects of the profession. "There are a number of doctors who are very smart but when they get on the floor and have to start dealing with patients they break down," he said. Especially today, many doctors don't have the proper time to truly get to know their patients, the ways their various struggles have shaped the people they are. "There was another woman who had a headache for around four years. During that period she had lost her ability to name things, she couldn't remember the nouns. When she finally got rid of her migraine, she went back and photographed all the things she couldn't remember. For someone to tell their story to first year med students -- it's not just, 'Oh, you have a headache, what medicine should I give you?' It's a new way to understand the life process of living with an illness." Meyer's unorthodox merging of art and medicine proves that art therapy isn't only helpful for patients, but doctors as well. "It's a new way to connect," Meyer said. "We are making positive things out of these horrible situations."   Image above: Ted Meyer, Scarred for Life: Meyer uses block-print ink to transform human scars into vibrant colorful abstractions in his "Scarred for Life" series, inviting others to share the physical remnants of their survival stories. Find more images of art works online.

Researchers aim to determine whether the arts can treat Alzheimer’s

From the Washington Post: Story by Fredrick Kunkle

As rock-and-roll fills a sunny recreation room at Birmingham Green in Manassas, residents of the assisted-living facility seem swept up in the music as if by a powerful wind.

Brett Sigmundsson, 52, belts out the lyrics of a Beatles tune while dancing in place with all the vigor of a middle-aged Mick Jagger. John Archer, 64, rises to his feet in dance. Up front, Norma Felter, 85, a former department store clerk whose eyes are glued to a TV screen showing the lyrics for “Hey Jude,” sings into a microphone, not always in sync with the words but joyfully all the same. Even those whose thoughts appear far away sometimes sway or tap their fingers in time to the beat. The karaoke session is a popular draw at the facility. But music, art and dance sessions like these are also the subject of intensifying interest among the scientific community. As the nation’s median age rises and baby boomers retire, the federal government, universities and health-care institutions are seeking to determine whether the arts have a quantifiably therapeutic effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related disabilities. Many researchers agree evidence seems promising that the arts can improve cognitive function and memory, bolster a person’s mood and sense of well-being, and reduce stress, agitation and aggression. But many previous studies have been too limited or poorly designed to say for sure. [caption id="attachment_17490" align="alignleft" width="301"]Alzheimer's research George Moseley in front of a mural he painted in an empty room at Birmingham Green, an elder care residence in Manassas, Va., on Nov. 21. Painting “helps me to manage and cope, to have a positive attitude,” he said. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)[/caption] The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health and others are pushing for more answers. At Birmingham Green, researchers from George Mason University are conducting a federally subsidized study to examine the impact of the arts on the emotional and cognitive health of older adults. “There still needs to be a lot of work done,” said Sunil Iyengar, who heads the Office of Research and Analysis at the NEA. Iyengar said research into the effect of art on people with cognitive impairments has suffered from a lack of rigor. Too many studies lacked proper controls, involved samples that were too small, and were poorly defined. They also may have been looking for the wrong thing, Iyengar said. While searching for hard evidence of biological improvements in memory or cognition, many also overlooked measurable improvements in the mood and well-being of people with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, too. In a paper titled “Shall I Compare Thee to a Dose of Donepezil,” researchers Kate de Medeiros and Anne Basting called for developing research models that would better suit interventions that involve the imagination and meaningful personal experiences, instead of those that have been used to test clinical efficacy of pharmaceuticals. “I think these are the so-called intangibles that we as a society have tended to underplay,” Iyengar said. “These are really devastating diseases for these people and their families, and anything you can do to reduce that pain is important.” The National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the NEA and NIH, convened a public workshop in March 2011 to investigate ways to bolster research into arts-related interventions for aging adults. Several studies have hinted at the promise of integrating the arts into therapy for age-related disabilities. Dance and movement have been shown to help older people avoid falls. Acting sessions can strengthen the sense of social ties and community, a critical need for people whose cognitive impairment can lead to isolation. Interventions using everything from drum circles to poetry have been shown to improve psychological symptoms, such as aggression, in patients with cognitive impairment. [caption id="attachment_17492" align="alignright" width="288"]Norma Felter sings “Hey Jude” with activity aide Tina Burhans-Robinson during karaoke at Birmingham Green. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post) Norma Felter sings “Hey Jude” with activity aide Tina Burhans-Robinson during karaoke at Birmingham Green. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)[/caption] Music has been found to have a particularly strong effect on cognitive function. Research has shown that musical training can help older people distinguish speech better, particularly amid background noise. People recovering from brain injuries, such as a stroke, have been shown to sing words and phrases that they might not otherwise be able to speak. Performing music also relies heavily on memory and understanding of visual and sound patterns. For these reasons, people with musical training may weather the effects of aging better than non-musicians. “But outside of these things is sheer joy,” said Gary Glazner, founder and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Glazner said he was working at an adult day-care center in Northern California and searching for ways to connect with people with Alzheimer’s disease when he discovered the power of poetry to reach people with cognitive impairment. Having studied poetry in college, Glazner shared Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and The Song” with a resident and from the first line — “I shot an arrow” — hit the mark. Glazner uses poetry, particularly beloved classics learned by older adults, in call-and-response with older people and guides them in writing poems. Jump-rope rhymes, even military cadences, can evoke responses from people with cognitive impairment that engage them, he said. Holly C. Matto, a professor of social work at GMU who is conducting the experiment at Birmingham Green, said people with cognitive impairment often feel overwhelmed by their inability to process and integrate information from their surroundings. Using the arts, particularly nonverbal arts such as painting and music, can help restore a sense of organizing their world. “Those nonverbal ways of communicating are not impaired,” she said. Her 18-month study, supported in part by a $25,000 grant from the NEA, involves taking groups of 10 randomly assigned people and engaging them in twice-weekly sessions using music, imagery and movement. (There is also a control group.) Those who participate in the study are invited to choose music for the group to listen to and then let their imaginations and memories roam. They also use painting to express what they feel in the music. And they are invited to dance. (Study guidelines forbid observing the study itself, but a reporter was allowed to observe other art programs at the center.) “The hypothesis is that after folks participate in this study, the people will show an improvement in mood and possibly a change in cognitive function,” Matto said. She said the study subjects and control group are to be evaluated before and after the sessions begin using accepted clinical tools, such as the Profile of Mood States, cognitive assessments and the Geriatric Depression Scale, to evaluate whether the sessions have any lasting impact on the subjects’ mood or well-being. “It makes me happy,” said Felter, who had been rocking to the Beatles from her wheelchair. She said the music helps her adjust to the stresses of living in a communal setting. Kathryn Dodd, 65, who lived in Ashburn before moving to Birmingham Green, said listening to tunes by James Taylor and Mary J. Blige allowed her mind to wander to pleasant memories from years ago. “Music brings memories. I basically try to remember the good times — I don’t like to dwell on the bad times — and music brings those out,” Dodd said. “I got a lot out of it.” All over Birmingham Green are visual reminders of the relief art can bring. George D. Moseley, 70, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, said his love of painting vivid murals of flowers, birds and landscapes — all showing the influence of Thomas Hart Benton and years of formal training at the Corcoran School of Art — has been instrumental in helping manage a lifelong cognitive disability, instead of medication. He describes his art in almost religious terms, saying the activity delivers him from the bondage of his condition. “It helps me to manage and cope, to have a positive attitude,” he said. “The paintbrush and the art give me an outlook and a feeling of serenity and peace, love, and joy. The paintbrush is the treatment for all else that has failed.”

South Carolina artist’s “Painting Table” helps Newtown heal

[gallery link="file"] Artist Roger Hutchison, Canon for Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, S.C., was invited to help facilitate an arts therapy workshop in Newtown, Conn. after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Hutchison had written a book, “The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy," about the innovative group activity he uses with parishioners to blend art therapy with mindful spiritual practice. Hutchison's story is featured on the Huffington Post blog. We asked him to share his experience with us:

On December 14, 2012, the unthinkable happened. Twenty children and six adults were killed when a lone gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was a beautiful Friday morning; my day off. I will, on occasion, spend my Fridays painting with children in local schools and on this day, I had spent the morning with children at Hammond School in Columbia, S.C. There were bold colors and lots of laughter. The joy of childhood was palpable. Little did I know that at that same time I was working with school children in Columbia, sheer terror and tragedy was unfolding in the hallways and classrooms of a small-town elementary school in a community called Sandy Hook. What happened on December 14, 2012, brought the world to its knees. I am the Canon for Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, SC. I am in my 16th year at the Cathedral. I’m a husband and a father. I am also an artist. I paint at my grandmother’s table, a table I once played under as a child and on which I enjoyed vibrant and delicious meals. The table became a Eucharistic symbol for me. It is the place where I go to paint, pray, and remember. It has become such an important place for me, that I knew I had to invite others to the table. In late March of this year, I received an invitation to travel to Newtown. Sue Vogelman, the Director of Christian Education at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, was looking at how she might gather the children to talk about faith and God and what happened and was struggling to find ways to make this happen. Trinity Church, Newtown, is a congregation that serves many families with children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary. Ben Wheeler, a child of the congregation, was one of the children killed. “The children are very resilient, but as time goes on they have been asking a lot more questions, faith questions, questions about God and death,” says Sharon Pearson, a Christian educator in Connecticut.  “Many of the Sunday School teachers are also parents. Having their children come to church and asking these questions in the context of faith has been difficult. Parents are looking for support in answering those questions, because they have those questions, too.” On Friday, May 3, we pulled into Newtown…and I fell in love. We had arranged to have two “Painting Table” sessions – one for children and families, and one for adults only.  We expected that there might be 20 or so people who participated, but when it was all said and done, some 50+ children and adults joined in. My painting table is an actual table, but the idea of the Painting Table is more than a wooden top with four legs. It is about the invitation. It is about sharing our own sacred stories.  It is a safe and holy space where conversation, prayer, and healing can take place. The canvas, paper, and other assorted art supplies are the simple tools that help bring us together. While there is grief, sadness, and loss, there is also hope.  There is an opportunity for celebration as we gather together, break bread, talk, and are welcomed. Whether it is through cooking, painting, or Eucharist, we come together to remember. The end result of The Painting Table is not the painting that is created. It is the conversation, sharing, and listening that takes place around the table. It is one mother comforting another mother as they both grieve for their friend who lost a child. It is about the conversation I had with a 3rd grade girl who told me she had had a really bad day.  Her painting was dark and frantic. I listened to her for a little while – then encouraged her to paint another one.  The second painting was a bit more colorful. She took her two paintings and smashed them together.  When she pulled them apart, the darkness had lifted. I could see light and love and a beautiful smile. The Painting Table is also about the conversation I had with a young mother who told me that she feels guilty sometimes that she still has her children. She shared with me what it was like to take her children home on that tragic day – passing house after house with state patrol cars in the driveways. And sometimes the Painting Table helps us express our gratitude for life, as well. We are created in God’s image so at the very center of our being is that need and desire to create. One does not have to be a “trained” or a professional artist to do this. Have you ever watched a child coloring or painting? There is an authenticity and holy joy in that very moment. I am often asked what inspired the idea of The Painting Table. My Grandmother inspired me. Her kitchen table became my painting table. When I sit at my painting table, I can still remember the love that she shared. Her love took the form of fresh tomatoes and bright green okra, black berry cobbler and chicken and dumplings.  My love takes the form of swirling colors smeared across canvas. It really comes down to love.  Just love. Isn’t that what it is all about?

Milly

Exhibition of soldiers’ art a celebration of recovery

[gallery link="file" columns="4"] For nearly a year, soldiers in the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Jackson have created pottery and paintings as participants in Creative Journey, a monthly arts workshop designed to help soldiers recover from health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain injuries. Now their works of art will be exhibited at the City of Columbia Art Center's annual holiday sale on Nov. 23. Developed by Suzy Shealy, whose son died in Baghdad in 2005, and City of Columbia cultural arts coordinator Brenda Oliver, Creative Journey began in January 2013 and has served approximately 100 soldiers. "The program is indeed doing what it was designed to do -- provide art as a path to healing as part of the recovery process," said Oliver. "We have seen remarkable growth in many of the soldiers, and we want to celebrate their accomplishments with this exhibition. We encourage the public to come and see what the soldiers have created." One soldier who served two tours of duty in Iraq expressed his gratitude in a letter: "I came back (from Iraq) with chronic PTSD. I have been in and out of numerous hospitals since 2007. I am thankful for the people of Creative Journey. I tried working with clay and found it to be therapeutic. For so long it was my job to destroy. Although my battle is ongoing, I truly find a little solitude working with the clay (and) escaping from the war for a moment in time." All artists who work with the soldiers are volunteers and receive special training. Each soldier decides whether to participate in the program and which type of art they are interested in. The program is supported by monetary and in-kind donations from local businesses, arts organizations and service clubs. Creative Journey was recently recognized with a Program of Excellence Award from the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association. "This is the only arts recovery program in the country for active members of the military that exists as a result of a partnership between city government and the military," said Oliver, who has big plans for 2014. "Our vision is to expand Creative Journey to veterans in other branches of the armed services." The Art Center's holiday sale takes place Saturday, Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Earlewood Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive in Columbia. Several artists will sell ceramics, jewelry, paintings, and other items. The soldiers' work is not for sale, but a silent auction will benefit Creative Journey and help continue the work in 2014. Find out more about the sale on the Art Center's Facebook page. For more information about Creative Journey, contact Oliver at bloliver@columbiasc.net or (803) 545-3093.

The art of salvation

Effingham resident Charles Dalrymple is "living proof" of the healing power of the arts. Lindsey Buchanan shares Dalrymple's experience in the Florence Morning News: "When Charles Dalrymple limped into the Morning News office on a recent afternoon, pulling a heavy suitcase full of paintings behind him, he was on a mission. He wanted to change some lives. It’s a bold cause, but Dalrymple knows something about it, from personal experience. In the past few months, he has gone from self-proclaimed “couch pumpkin” – presumably that’s bigger and more sedentary than the normal couch potato – to a veritable ball of artistic fire, who suddenly has a real life again. What changed him was a newfound love for sketching and painting. This wouldn’t be particularly inspiring or interesting if not for the fact that the 65-year-old former trucker has been disabled for about half his life. A motorcycle accident 34 years ago nearly killed him and left him without much motor function on his right side. He spent years learning to feed himself with his left hand – “I stopped using forks because I was stabbing myself in the eye all the time,” Dalrymple said – but has never really learned how to write again. His scrawled signature “looks,” according to Dalrmyple, “like something a 2-year-old would do.” He is embarrassed for people to see it. But he is not embarrassed for them to see his paintings, which he began hammering out with a logic-defying fury a little more than two months ago after a friend gave him some painting materials." Read the complete article. Via:SCnow.com/Morning News Online

Art therapy helping veterans

Creative arts therapy plays increasing role in standard of care for patients in military settings

The National Endowment for the Arts expands its landmark arts partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to bring music therapy to patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center including patients at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) located on the campus of Walter Reed Bethesda. This new music therapy component of the NEA's Operation Homecoming program reflects the growing use of creative arts therapy programs in healthcare settings. The NEA and Walter Reed have extended their commitment to partner on these efforts through 2015.
"The NEA is proud to join with the U.S. Department of Defense to significantly expand our mutual commitment to investigate how art works to help heal our wounded warriors who have sacrificed so much in service of our country," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "The NEA is honored that this partnership will help design and test neurologic music therapy programs for our service men and women being treated at Walter Reed."
The neurologic music therapy component at the NICoE joins the existing Operation Homecoming creative writing program for wounded warriors which launched in December 2011. Since then, more than 150 active duty military and their family members have taken part in writing workshops in both clinical and non-clinical settings, led by combat veteran and author Ron Capps, with programmatic support from The Writer's Center. Both activities complement a visual arts therapy program for patients, and all of the creative art therapies are integrated with the NICoE's unique array of alternative and conventional clinical treatments for patients. Operation Homecoming is a partnership between the NEA and the Department of Defense, first created in 2004 to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside. It is one of several programs the NEA has created to bring quality arts programs to the military, veterans, and their families. For more details, visit the NEA website. Via: National Endowment for the Arts Mask photo courtesy of the NICoE Healing Arts Program