By Lynn Colburn
Passavant Area Hospital invites its patients, staff and the community to enjoy part of each Friday in September to relax and revitalize at The Art of Healing the lobby from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The Art of Healing allows everyone to view thoughtful paintings while listening to calm and healing piano pieces. The concept was the inspiration of classical pianist Terri Benz and artist Skyler McGee who both understand the capacity of art and music to inspire, comfort and encourage as well as heal body and soul.
Lori Hartz, director of community relations, reveals, “Terri and Skyler researched the program and wanted to bring it here. They are volunteering all their time, energy, talents and enthusiasm to bring the Art of Healing to our staff and patients, and our lobby is open to the general community, so all are welcome to stop by and view the paintings, listen to the music and interact with our employees and patients. Both Terri and Skyler will be available at times to answer questions. We are so lucky to have such very talented individuals in our community who want to share their gifts with others. Skyler’s father also wanted to provide refreshments, so he is going to be supplying cheese and crackers for guests to enjoy during the program.”
Clinical studies throughout the world are showing the significant impacts of art and music interventions in healthcare settings. Some studies illustrate that art fosters healing, eases fear and alleviates pain in children awaiting emergency treatment. Neuroscientists have studied the different ways music acts upon the brain, affecting our behavior, memory and beyond, giving more scientific evidence to the curative powers of the arts.
Hospitals across the country engage in art and music together, as part of the larger picture for a healing environment, to help patients and families feel more at peace with whatever they are going through.
The Art of Healing conceptualists met in January when McGee’s six-year-old daughter began taking piano lessons from Benz, followed later by McGee herself. “During a lesson, we were sitting at the piano and Skyler mentioned this large piece of artwork and her passion to someday have it hang in a hospital to promote healing,” explains Benz. “And I told her that I have that same passion with music! In the past, I have taken MacMurray choirs to healing programs at hospitals where they’ve performed. Together we came up with the program called The Art of Healing to help foster good health and mental health from artwork and from hearing music to help to foster a healing attitude in the body and psyche.” Both women currently work at Illinois College.
“We’ve enlisted the help of Jan Fellhauer (Passavant Hospital’s Volunteer Department) to get volunteers to bring mobile patients in the Transitional Care Unit (TCU) to come down for the program, and Hartz to assist with letting the community know,” says Benz. “We sincerely hope the hospital staff will attend also, which is why we looked at the 11 a.m.-1 p.m. timing because we thought [the] staff could come on a break or over lunch.”
“Staff deal with a lot of stress at the hospital. Both those that take care of patients, and those that take care of the people that take care of the patients,” explains Benz.
“Art operates on such a different level, it’s non-verbal and it’s non-linear,” says McGee, “so when people are ill, no matter what kind of illness, linear thinking and verbal processing is exhausting. Through this experience, they are able to receive something that isn’t tiring and that is very exciting to be able to offer.”
“That’s why the music portion of this is instrumental and not sung also,” adds Benz. “Sometimes words get in the way.”
“Skyler helped developed a leaflet that will be available with a few simple, but purposeful questions to help engage people in assessing and feeling the healing power of the art and music,” says Benz excitedly.
“My work is akin to instrumental music, I work primarily abstractly,” explains McGee, “so there are elements in my paintings that are recognizable. For instance, you will see a flower, a bird, or a cup, but they’re always arranged in environments that don’t make sense. It’s a very abstract experience, just the way the instrumental music is. Hopefully, it gives people the chance to enter the painting from their own place, experience it in their own way, and interpret it in their own manner. That’s the way I enjoy art. It’s art that I can bring a lot of myself to.”
Three of McGee’s 5-foot-by-5-foot paintings will be on easels in the lobby at eye-level which is meant to lead to full immersion with them, and along the hallway are two canvases that make up a larger 5-by-10-foot painting. In one corner Benz will be playing both soothing and energetic piano arrangements of classical, film, spiritual and sacred music.
“Painting the larger painting was actually an act of healing in itself,” says McGee, “I’d gone through some grief, and it was after that, that I painted this painting and I stepped back and realized that this was my tribute to this experience I’d had. And I think it healed me as I painted it. This does not happen typically for me, but I’ve actually had several people weep in front of this painting, it’s just a particularly emotive piece. So that’s what I’m hoping for, just to give people that opportunity.”
“It’s the first time Passavant Area Hospital has ever done anything like this,” says Hartz enthusiastically. “So, we will see how our employees, patients and the general public react. But it’s going to be a neat feeling in our lobby. It’s going to be calm and beautiful and inviting and very relaxing for everyone who stops in to enjoy it. We are looking forward to The Art of Healing in September.”