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VIDEO: How art can heal

‘Medicine can heal the body, but… to heal the soul, you have to have art.’

Article Author: Juliette Allen

Article Date:

art with a heart
12-year-old Aryanna Allgood takes a break from hospital life by painting with Art with a Heart.

Comfort through creativity
Beeping, blood draws and frequent poking and prodding by a medical team who are just trying to help you feel better. For children in the hospital, life is anything but normal. But inside Wolfson Children’s Hospital are sanctuaries where kids can be, well, kids.

Six days a week, the nonprofit “Art with a Heart in Healthcare” transforms playrooms throughout Wolfson Children’s Hospital into art studios, safe spaces where a child can momentarily forget his or her illness or ailment. Art with a Heart has been working with Wolfson Children’s for more than 17 years.

“Art with a Heart is a fine art experience with trained artists in a health care environment,” said Lori Presto, program director for Art with a Heart. “We do gatherings where kids can work together with other kids or with family members, and we also do bedside visits.”

Activities include origami, painting, sculpting with model clay, jewelry making and more.

“I think patients can lose their identity sometimes,” Presto said. “They become the disease or illness they have, especially with some of the kids who are chronic. This helps them still feel like a kid and still be able to use their creativity, which I also think helps heal.”

Inside one playroom, 12-year-old Aryanna Allgood painted a brightly colored sunset as her mother, Brittany Abriam, looked on.

“Aryanna’s face brightened up when she was told about the Art with a Heart program, and that she could come and make art,” Abriam said. “She brightened up considerably.”

Working together, for the children
Artists with Art with a Heart work closely with Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s Child Life specialists, professionals who use play therapeutically to help normalize the hospital experience for patients.

“We do therapeutic activities to help children express what they’re feeling inside and prepare them for the hospital experience,” said Certified Child Life Specialist Christine Licsko, adding that children learn best through play. “Their days can get bogged down with medical procedures, staff coming in and out of their rooms, and it’s just an abnormal environment for them. So having an outlet like Art with a Heart or like Child Life to implement something that would be more normative in their day-to-day lives really helps them cope with the hospital experience.”

Each piece of artwork is a positive memory to cling to when things get tough.

“There are sad days, unfortunately,” Licsko said. “And to be able to see the children at their highest point, having a good time, doing an art project, that’s everything to us.”

“Medicine can heal the body, but I think to heal the soul, you have to have art,” Presto said.

If your child is in the hospital and you’d like to contact Child Life, you can call 904.202.8541. Child Life offers programs designed to help children prepare for the hospital experience, like “MR-I Am Ready,” which familiarizes children with the sights and sounds of the MRI.

Art with a Heart in Healthcare

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