WORDS: TAYLOR BASSO
In previous blogs, we've encouraged you to gather your family and friends and "come on out" to enjoy the many wonders of Culture Days: street parades, community festivals, drum circles, art classes and so much more. But for many individuals, going out to a cultural event is simply not an option. Confined to hospitals due to illness or injury, they may only see one room over the September weekend. To these populations, access to the arts can be critical, and even life-changing. That's why organizations like Artists in Healthcare Manitoba are so important. By bringing artists, musicians, and performers to hospitals and healthcare facilities, Artists in Healthcare Manitoba makes room for healing, comfort and fun, at a time when such things may otherwise be in short supply.
The organization started in 2001 when four women, each with experiences either as patients or healthcare professionals, joined together to find ways to improve the patient experience through the arts. Since then, the group has blossomed, sending musicians, artists, dancers, and performers to more than twenty facilities across the province of Manitoba, enriching the lives of nearly 20,000 patients each year. In Winnipeg, the new and impactful arts programming hospital initiative has become a much-loved, regular affair. Each month, St. Boniface Hospital hosts the Johnston Group Manitoba Chamber Orchestra performance series in the Everett Atrium. That's where you'll find them on Friday, September 28, heralding the beginning of the Culture Days weekend. They'll be accompanied by the Landscape Dancers, students from Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers who draw upon their physical surroundings to create unique and expressive dances, which in turn reveal the essence of the space.
A performance like this can make all the difference in the world, not only to an ill person, but to their family, friends, and hospital staff. "Live music or art-making provides a distraction from the anxiety and stress generated by illness," explains Shirley Grierson, Executive Director of Artists in Healthcare Manitoba. "Creativity allows you to process on a different level. Sometimes it allows you to access healing. It certainly can reduce pain and reduce the use of pain medication. Art facilitates communication. A live musician sitting and playing for you takes your focus to another place, literally engaging different processes in the brain." (Shirley has shared some of her favourite articles on this topic below - be sure to check them out!)
But the benefits of the program are perhaps most obvious in anecdotes, in stories of the moments of lightness brought to people in difficult times: the grateful mother whose daughter in palliative care only became responsive to the daily rhapsody of a visiting musician. The elderly patient who danced up and down the halls with his wife to the Tennessee Waltz. The conga line that spontaneously emerged in the middle of a hospital cafeteria. These stories tell the true healing value of the joy of creativity.
To experience the restorative abilities of the arts firsthand, visit St. Boniface Hospital at 12:30 p.m. on September 28, and watch the MCO and the Landscape Dancers take centre stage. Shirley promises you'll be moved by the music and mesmerized by the dancers. And, as you watch, take a moment to meditate on the therapeutic power of arts and culture in all of our lives. You'll leave refreshed, revitalized, and ready to take on the 2018 Culture Days weekend with gusto!
Interested in learning more about the impacts of music and creativity on health and wellness? Below is a list of Shirley's suggested reading:
- How Music Can Help Relieve Chronic Pain
- Keep Your Brain Young With Music
- Music Has Powerful (And Visible) Effects On The Brain
Photos credits (in order of appearance): Claire Stephensen; Shirley Grierson; Courtesy of Artists in Healthcare Manitoba; Shirley Grierson
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