Art from the Heart11/24/2023 09:33AM ● By KAREN CASSIDY
Program coordinator Rebecca Schwarz with Seema Shiv, patient service specialist, and Lara Weis, Art from the Heart’s longest serving volunteer (8 years), at the Children’s Specialty Center waiting room art table.
Art is a great way to heal your soul and sooth your mind. It has been said that art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. This is especially true for people going through long- term illnesses, injury, or surgery recoveries.
Everyone needs a release, especially kids! That’s why Art from the Heart, a Burlington City Arts (BCA Studios) program, was started. It is a volunteer program giving artistic mental escapes to patients, caregivers and hospital staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center and University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.
Art from the Heart participants enjoying their projects, and hearts created for a self-love Valentine’s Day garland by the Miller 5, Oncology and Comfort Care nursing team.
Art from the Heart began in 1994 and still continues to transform hospital rooms and chemotherapy infusion bays into temporary art studios. The program provides free art kits, as well as volunteers to spread creative cheer throughout these hospitals.
The artwork made through Art from the Heart is displayed in four different galleries around the hospital. These galleries transform the hospital into a more colorful, creative place, which makes patients, visitors, and employees feel good.
A young artist chooses marker colors with Lara Weis, Art from the Heart volunteer.
Rebecca Schwarz is the Art from the Heart coordinator and loves the work this program is doing for patients, nurses, and caregivers. She is ecstatic that this program helps people feel better through the arts. It helps to relieve anxiety and boredom.
“We offer people autonomy and creative expression by encouraging them to find art everywhere. You can find out how you feel through the creative process. It’s pretty exciting.” Rebecca said. “We are not an art therapy program, but art is therapeutic in that lower case ‘t’ way.”
FROM CARD MAKING TO OIL PASTELS
This program does wonders for the mental health of patients. In 2023 alone, over 3,000 kids were visited by volunteers and over 3,500 art kits and gifts were made through the program. Around half of the participants are children under the age of 18. The art kits are unique, ready to use, and are kept on hand throughout the hospital to relieve hospital boredom, help patients feel cared for, redirect anxiety, and support communication.
There are several types of art kits available: card making, collage, coloring, drawing and mandalas, Crayola Model Magic, oil pastels, origami, pattern doodling, watercolors, and journaling and Write to Heal.
A drawer of art kits and gifts in the pediatric clinic.
“The collage kit (developed by madcollage) is one of my favorites. It is exciting because you can really take it in so many different directions.” beamed Rebecca. “Curiosity and the power to rework what you might find in a magazine or a pamphlet can be so enjoyable!” Volunteers work with everyone, including children, patients with dementia, patients with visual impairment, moms on bedrest, inpatient psychiatry, the NICU, post-surgery—they are everywhere. Volunteers try to make their way all over the hospital.
Volunteers also decorate hospital rooms, color with patients, or even just stop in to say hello and offer art supports. They sometimes even offer team-building art installations and workshops for staff.
“It’s a great stress-reliever, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rebecca said. “The hospital created renewal spaces referred to as a ‘zen dens.’”
Part of a self-love garland by the nursing team on Miller 5, Oncology and Comfort Care.
A view of the pediatric art cart.
PROVIDING JOY AND CHEER
Art from the Heart is supported by generous donors, grants, and by the Children’s Miracle Network, and the City of Burlington. They love the work they are doing and the joy that it brings to the halls and rooms of UVMC and UVMCH. And Art from the Heart is always looking for volunteers to spread artistic cheer.
If you’d like to request an art kit or a visit from a volunteer—or even become a volunteer yourself—contact Rebecca Schwarz at Burlington City Arts.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BURLINGTON CITY ARTS AND UVM MEDICAL CENTER & CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
Burlington City Arts
135 Church St. Burlington, VT