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Women’s Art Center Plans Artist-in-Residence Institute

Women’s Art Center Plans Artist-in-Residence Institute

NEW YORK—The Creative Center for Women with Cancer (CCWC), well known for its art workshops for cancer patients, is now taking art directly to patients in hospitals in New York City. CCWC director Geraldine (Gerry) Herbert told ONI that the Center hopes to establish a resident artists’ institute, based on its groundbreaking professional-artist-in-residence program.

The program currently sends artists to work in cancer units at New York Hospital (oncology, bone marrow transplant, and pediatric oncology units), Lenox Hill Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, Roosevelt-St. Luke’s Hospital, and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and there are plans to expand the program to North General Hospital in Harlem.

The artists-in-residence receive a stipend from the CCWC and spend one day a week working with hospitalized patients who have cancer. The CCWC trains the artists to work in the hospital setting and then brings them together to talk about their experiences. “It can’t help but change your life to work as an artist in a hospital,” Ms. Herbert said.

The program artists work in a wide variety of media. “The artists take their medium, whatever it is, right to the patient’s bedside,” Ms. Herbert said. “They teach the patient how to use the medium and create original artworks. Patients who are very weak can just direct the artist in creating the artwork. The patients keep the original artwork, displaying it in their hospital room if they choose.

The artists have found that this creative process is not only gratifying and energizing for the patient but also can ease communication between patient and family. Ms. Herbert described one such instance in which a foreign resident of New York who went to the hospital because of a fall was subsequently found to have a brain tumor. The patient had not been able to find the words to tell his family abroad about his diagnosis, but in working with an artist, he created a collage that presented his situation and his feelings in a form that could be sent to his family.

Seven artists-in-residence are working with the Center now, and Ms. Herbert has received requests from many more hospitals that want artists. The proposed artist-in-residence institute is partly a response to that need. “We are hoping to start an institute this year to train artists from other cities to go back and work with oncology patients,” Ms. Herbert said. “The invited artists would come to New York for a week of training about cancer and in the fine points of working with hospitalized cancer patients. Then they would return to their home cities to work in hospitals there.” Ms. Herbert calculates that she needs $100,000 to get this program off the ground.

The center also hopes to expand its core workshop programs, Ms. Herbert told ONI. Four different weekly workshop programs are now offered in various media such as photography, gouache, paper cutting, and collage. Workshops are taught by a paid professional artist and reach more than 500 patients each year. Ms. Herbert said that men are welcome in the workshops, notwithstanding the center’s official name. “Workshops are open to anyone who has had any type of cancer,” she said.

Artwork from workshop participants is sometimes presented in juried gallery shows. This year the CCWC artists will be shown in a photography exhibit at a Mercer Street gallery and in a juried exhibition in the gallery at ABC Television network headquarters. The center also has an ongoing writer’s group, which grew out of a workshop.

Desk Calendar

Work by CCWC workshop artists is also presented in a special desk calendar produced by Novartis Oncology for distribution by Novartis sales representatives. The calendar for each month features a piece of art from a workshop artist, and “liner notes” with a statement from each artist about her work are included (see the paintings ). “This is the third year we have been able to present art in this calendar, “ Ms. Herbert said.

 
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