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MetroHealth transforms the medical arts with cultural arts



MetroHealth System is focusing on an aspect of healthcare that is sometimes overlooked: the power of the arts in healing.
 
Launched in 2015, MetroHealth’s Arts in Medicine is a cooperative effort to promote healing and create community through both the visual and performing arts. As a result, the hospital walls are adorned with paintings, dance and theater companies regularly perform in various spaces and music fills the hallways and atriums.
 
“There is a direct impact on patients and caregivers when arts is involved in healthcare,” MetroHealth president and CEO Akram Boutros says in this video about the program. “Art is healing, art is hope, art is life. How could you not include art in healthcare?"

MetroHealth Arts in Medicine from MetroHealth on Vimeo.

The budget for art and programming varies by project. Some funding comes through MetroHealth’s operations budget and some comes from the MetroHealth Foundation, while other projects receive donor funding.
 
Linda Jackson, director of the Arts in Medicine program in the Patient Experience office at MetroHealth, says that embedding the visual, performing and therapeutic arts across the MetroHealth system is a great way of accomplishing the hospital’s mission of inspiring a sense of hope, healing and community. She also notes the program's many goals extend throughout the system and beyond.

“First, we use arts to address population and health issues like opioids, gun violence and infant mortality,” she explains. “We want to integrate arts throughout the system – in waiting rooms, with patients and families, in staff and the community and through school health programs," says Jackson. "Cleveland is so rich in culture.”
 
To that end, several members of the stalwart local cultural network are involved including LAND studio, Cleveland Public Theatre, Inlet Dance Theatre, Kulture Kids, Dancing Wheels Company, Cleveland Print Room, Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art, Zygote Press, and the Julia De Burgus Cultural Arts Center, among others.
 
Then there is also an extensive list of local individual artists whose work is featured in many of the new buildings in the MetroHealth Transformation Plan, which was revealed in November. The program extends throughout all of MetroHealth’s campuses.
 
Bringing diverse events to those campuses is a high priority. For instance, professional musicians perform on a regular basis, while Cleveland Public Theatre brought its Road to Hope performance to the outpatient center at the main campus. LAND studio worked with Jackson and other MetroHealth officials to curate the art that created the program’s vision.
 
“The three themes that really were prevalent were hope, healing and community,” says Erin Guido, LAND studio’s project manager. “These are the themes that tie in the whole art collection.” For instance, Guido explains that the critical care pavilion reflects poetic abstraction themes, while the Brecksville facility depicts perceptions of the outside world.
 
“There is a very big focus on local artists in Cuyahoga County, but in a purposeful statement,” Guido explains. “While it is a local focus, we’re also incorporating a lot of national and international artists.”

Jackson says the impact is impressive. "It can be as simple as how live music can help an oncology patient relax before an appointment or how, through the performing arts, we can help illustrate the devastating effects of gun violence on our community,” she says. “It's exciting that in just a short time our patients and caregivers are now seeking out our programming and also to know that we are just beginning and so much potential lies ahead.”
 
One component of the program highlights patients who have thrived after hardship. The Faces of Resilience project, shot by Cleveland photographer Paul Sobota last year, includes portraits of 14 MetroHealth patients who have thrived in the face of trauma. This month, the rotating exhibit will be installed in the waiting areas of MetroHealth's NICU and the Burn Care Center and Specialty Services Pavilion.
 
Last year, Community Partnership for Arts and Culture fellow and performance artist Ray Caspio hosted a month-long storytelling workshop with the hospital’s AIDS and HIV community – teaching participants how to tell their stories. The workshop culminated with a performance in the last week.
 
“It has been extraordinary to see the impact of our Arts in Medicine program,” says Jackson. “I witness daily the effect it has on our patients and equally on our staff - and there are so many examples.”
 
Jackson adds that the program has transformed MetroHealth on both physical and emotional levels. “We've brought spaces to life by adding a visual art collection that engages patients and caregivers and transforms an environment,” she says.

“We see how the arts therapies help patients recover and provide empowerment and engagement. Other people have the opportunity to engage in the arts that might never have the experience otherwise.” 

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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