From the ancient Greeks, producing and performing cathartic dramas, to the Tibetan monks who use chanting, bells and "singing bowls" as part of their prayer and healing, the arts offer opportunities to emotionally soothe and psychically alleviate on both collective and individual levels.
The joy you feel when creating art can be healing in itself. It's easy to get caught up in the act of creation, relieving stress and thereby eliminating a major cause of dis-ease. But the effects are even more profound. According to the Art As a Healing Force, studies have shown that art changes not only a person's attitude, but their physiology. Art and music affect a person's brain wave pattern, along with the autonomic nervous system, hormonal balance, brain neurotransmitters, immune system and blood flow to all the organs, which can change one's perceptions of the world, including their emotional state and perception of pain.
The UMHS Gifts of Art program began in the early 1980s as part of a nationwide movement to understand art’s efficacy for many community functions. It was formalized in 1986, as a founding member of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, now the Global Alliance for Arts and Health.
Today, this cutting-edge, multi-faceted arts program is one of the first and most comprehensive arts programs in health care nationwide. Gifts of Art encourages relaxation, elevates mood and relieves anxiety for over six thousand patients and families a year, through the bedside music program alone. In addition to patient services, three million visitors annually enjoy fifty four art exhibits in 9 galleries throughout the UMHS complex and the public is invited and encouraged to attend the weekly free performances of music, dance and drama.
Several excellent programs are utilized to include art in a patient’s family time spent at UMHS starting with the Art Cart program, a lending library of prints allowing patients to choose art to display in their rooms throughout their stay. Opportunities for hands-on creativity is provided from the Bedside Art program where patients can regain a sense of self with family members who are also invited to make their own art. The Friends Meditation Garden on the northeast side of the main hospital courtyard was designed to offer patients, visitors and staff a place of comfort and respite in nature. In the bedside music program, endowed in part by William K. and Delores S. Brehm, certified music practitioners provide bedside music in most patient units that has an almost immediate stress-reducing and calming effect on patients.
Elaine Sims, Director of the Gifts of Art program, knows what families face. “You’re really kind of alone, a stranger in a strange land,” she says. “Your whole world is suddenly stripped away.” Patients say the art and music help them feel peace, a deeper connection to themselves. Hospital staff agree. “Art has a very powerful effect,” Elaine says. It helps patients remember “those times, people and places that made you feel safe, protected, and in control. It gives people back their identity, …and a foothold from which to say, ‘I’m still here!’”
Well-trafficked galleries/serious art
The Gift of Art galleries are some of the most widely visited, indoor, non-museum exhibit spaces in Michigan, viewed by approximately ten thousand people a day. An annual call for entries, (application online until Thursday, May 15), gathers a diverse selection of quality art from artists nationwide that is available for purchase by calling 734-936-ARTS.
The current exhibit running Monday, April 14 to Monday, June 9 includes art by Ann Arbor Public Schools students in the Taubman Health Center lobby, a fascinating series of acrylic landscapes by Rachael Van Dyke in the University Hospital Main lobby, and Ken Scott’s panoramic color photography showing on the UH Second Floor corridor. Don’t miss the work of Ypsilanti robotics sculptor Cre Fuller, whose works are fashioned from repurposed scraps of metal and old kitchen appliances.
Free live performances each Thursday at noon throughout April, 2014 include the U-M a cappella group Angels on Call (April 3), a concert of Indian classical music by Nadhamuni Gayatri Bharat (April 10), followed by a dance demonstration by the U-M Freshman Touring Company directed by Professor of Dance Robin Wilson (April 17) and a cello recital by the young cellists’ program “cellochan” (April 24). The series highlight comes with the Sunday, April 27 concert featuring the Life Sciences Orchestra, including physicians, researchers, students, residents and staff of the hospital, at 4pm. in Hill Auditorium. Enjoy Mendelssohn, Debussy and Brahms delivered with passion by dedicated healers.
1500 E. Medical Center Dr. 734-936-2787.