A couple of years ago, we were thinking of ways to expand the healing arts program at our hospital for children. We decided that creating an artist-in-residence program would further help our patients and families. There is a small house on campus where the artist could stay. Our amazing Child Life and Creative Arts therapy department that could incorporate the artist into the hospital and support the artists with supervision.
However, we lacked funding to support a stipend for the artists.
We learned that our local university, University of Delaware (UD), was simultaneously thinking of creating a new artist-in-residence program for their university students. They had funding for a stipend, but lacked housing.
With one meeting, we could create a combined artist in residence program between the university and the hospital, perhaps the first of its kind for both pediatric patients and university students.
The university would provide the money for the stipend. The hospital would provide the housing on our hospital campus. The artists could spend a portion of the time at the university working with students and a portion of time at the hospital working with patients.
The faculty at UD, the hospital child life leadership, and the hospital creative arts therapy staff collaborated to create the new program. There were a lot of logistics to iron out to ensure that the university students, the hospital patients and families and the artists themselves would all have a meaningful experience. I don’t think we fully understood how transformative the artists would be for our community.
Artist Garth Erasmus…
Our first artist-in-residence, Garth Erasmus, came from South Africa. Garth had years of experience teaching art and music to children. The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art displayed his work in multi-media and painting.
During his residency, Garth worked one-on-one with children in the hospital creating art, building instruments, and playing music. He gave a lecture to staff describing his experience growing up and living in South Africa. He performed music in our hospital atrium for patients, families, and staff. During his time with us, he created numerous original pieces of work. The UD campus art museum displayed at the art museum.
Garth left our university and hospital communities transformed by his brief stay with us. He impacted many young lives (our patients and college students), and impacted our hospital employees and our local university community.
Artist Frank Waln…
Our second artist-in-residence is Frank Waln. Born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, he is a young hip-hop artist. Frank has won awards for his music and inspiring message of healing and empathy. He has shared the stage with Willie Nelson, and Neil Young.
During his stay, Frank worked with children and families at the hospital and with students at the University campus. He spoke to both the hospital and university community. And he left an inspiring message that promoted cultural sensitivity and overcoming adversity.
An original song and video, created with our own hospital patients, culminated the stay. Love Helps Me Heal, was created by the kids, who each received a certificate from the artist.
Our combined hospital-university artist in residence program is just getting started. However, our early experience teaches us that art, music and creativity promote the healing process for sick children and the learning process for students.
The presence of our talented guests have forever changed both the hospital and university communities. On the hospital side, we need to keep developing new ways to introduce the healing arts into our environment. It is where it is needed most.