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Commentary Detail

Arts and Well-Being
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired October 07, 2011

An article entitled "Arts and Healthcare" in one of the recent BJC magazines caught my eye. It said that in 2010, the Arts and Healthcare program continued to reach thousands of patients, their caregivers and family members, and hospital staff, both directly through hands-on arts activities and indirectly though exhibits and performances.

All of this made me think of the great art programs we have all over the city for people with physical and mental issues. Take for example Variety the Children's Charity's annual productions of plays that include both physically and mentally challenged youngsters as well as professionally trained actors.

Agnes Wilcox heads up the Prison Performing Arts, whose mission is to enrich the lives of adults and youth in the Missouri criminal and juvenile justice systems. The organization fosters individual and social change by providing current and former inmates with opportunities to participate in the performing arts as artists, students and audience members.

Geoffrey Gigliareno, the executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council was telling me of the council's creative writing workshop for veterans who are in-patients at Jefferson Barracks V.A. medical facility. It's a joint program of the Missouri Writer's Guild, the Missouri Humanities Council, and the V.A. occupational therapy unit. The program allows self expression and creative writing and help the veterans with coping and generates historical records of their experiences.

Christy Merrill with her cart of musical instruments at Children's Hospital has brought joyful moments to the kids who have pain and needles far too much of their days.

There are art therapy programs all over the world. In an article in U.S. News and World Report, Christine Larson says that there is a growing trend to incorporate music, writing, and visual art into the clinical treatment of patients. While the use of the arts in healing can be traced back centuries through religious practices, a growing body of evidence now shows that the arts do far more than simply soothe the savage breast. New clinical research is quantifying the health benefits of the arts, from pain relief to faster recoveries. Medical schools now offer courses in the arts, literature, and humanities, and hospitals are adding healing gardens and art galleries and allowing patients to select artwork to decorate the walls of their sterile rooms.

An article on Arts in Health Care on the internet talks of art therapy to treat schizophrenia and another talks of art therapy for the victims of political torture. The articles on this subject are endless.

An article in Journal of American Medicine by Annette Ridenour says, "Major health care institutions across the country have recognized the power of the arts, in all their modalities, to provide messages promoting healing and a sense of community. This evolution has required many paradigm shifts. No longer are arts consultants the experts. Now we facilitate institution-based arts committees composed of doctors, nurses, administrators, patients, community members, and local artists to develop strategic plans for arts programming or to make selections for installations."

No matter how you look at the arts, we are finding that they are not just extra-curricular fluff but a powerful force capable of nourishing us both in body and soul.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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